Mariela Guadagnoliel works with students on an ecological paving project.

New education method ‘saves teen from the street’

Just when I was about to drop everything, a revolutionary learning method saved me from roaming the streets.

Available in: English Español

First-person source
Ignacio Racigh is a 17-year-old Argentine student of Mariela Guadagnoliel's revolutionary learning method.

GÁLVEZ, Argentina — For me, education was always a catalyst for stress and anxiety.

I am one of many students who can’t pay attention in class, who fall behind, and who risk exclusion and expulsion.

Just when I was about to drop everything, Mariela Guadagnoliel’s revolutionary learning method saved me from roaming the streets.

Educational neglect

My name is Ignacio Racigh. I am 17 years old, and I live in a small town in the province of Santa Fe, Argentina.

As a child, I used to walk through the doors of the Hipólito Irigoyen Industrial Technical School and imagined myself studying there. I yearned to study mechanics in the school’s storied halls.

But I was also a student who used humor and colloquialisms to communicate. 

Education was always arduous for me, and the transitions from elementary to high school only compounded the difficulties I faced every day. 

The days were long and rigid. I didn’t understand the subject matter, and I didn’t want to participate.

I was ashamed to voice my opinion, and many began to label me as a failure. By my second year of high school, I had to repeat a grade.

At that moment, I thought that I had made a mistake, that I had made the wrong choice.

From there, it became increasingly difficult for me to go to class. I didn’t want to see my classmates. Panic attacks afflicted my daily life, and I was afraid to go outside.

Then my life changed.

Painting myself with colors

Professor Mariela Guadagnoli approached me and offered the possibility of participating in her project-based Learning initiative that encourages students to participate in educational experiences alongside instructors.

It is a learning methodology that places students like me in an active role to encourage academic motivation.

Being part of that project changed everything for me. It was an open place where we debated ideas. I felt heard. There, an open dialogue was encouraged.

It was a turning point for me. I was still under the same schedule and had the same course load, but my perception changed.

The initiative emphasizes the practical before the theoretical. With Guadagnoli, we learn by investigating, sharing, disassembling, and recomposing.

I stopped thinking that I had to study to pass. I was no longer going for grades. Guadagnoli’s learning methodology cured my anxiety, my distress, and my panic attacks.

She taught us to understand that we can make mistakes. 

Most importantly, I started to enjoy school.

Mariela Guadagnoliel and students work to fix the pavement at the school.

Contributing to our school

The pouring rain flooded the streets surrounding our school. Bicycles could no longer enter, and some of my classmates quit their studies.

But our practical project-based class stepped up. 

That’s when Guadagnoli created an ecological paving project. Using recycled material, we created sustainable pavement blocks for the school.

With this project, we learned how to test pressure, measure temperature, and calculate kilonewtons — a unit of measurement of force. We were fascinated. We felt important.

It’s crazy that before this life-changing project, I was ready to drop out of school.

Hope for the future

Now, our dream is to have our ecological paving stone factory realized for different uses and needs.

Through the Concursol project of the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research of Argentina, we were able to implement a property into our paving stones that absorb pollutants in the air. 

The project brought worldwide recognition to the project and Guadagnoli’s learning initiative. 

Today, my wish is that the project continues to grow and grow because it saved my life.

Before her classroom, I feared school. Now, I’ve developed a love for construction. Although I know it will be a difficult and expensive journey, I’m excited.

Because of Guadagnoli, I have a path forwards.

Mariela Guadagnoli was born and raised in Gálvez, Santa Fe Province, Argentina.

She is a 49 year old architect and technology teacher.

She was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize for her most recent and innovative Ecological Paving project.

Her teaching method is based on project learning with a curriculum in five areas—science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics,( STEAM). The project attempts to address school dropouts and encourage learning by doing.

Today, the methodology is used on five separate continents.

Image and Sound Designer, Integral Audiovisual and Journalistic Producer, writer, and teacher.

I started working when I was very young; Since 2001, I was a producer for different television programs, documentary films, radio, and generating creative content for different organizations and companies.

I won the award: "Nuevo Sudaca Border" with the microfiction book "Un Tigre con la Boca Abierta", for Eloisa Cartonera Editorial. I am passionate about telling stories and writing.