Fellow Since 2002
This profile was prepared when Craig Esbeck was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2002.
The New Idea
In Uganda, where memorization and repetitive learning techniques characterize education, Craig equips primary school teachers with a new set of tools–games, flip charts, and puppets–that engage children and foster their creativity. The tools offer schools, teachers, and parents a low-cost, culturally relevant alternative to some of the imported products that, for example, require hard-to-come-by batteries, seem utterly alien to teachers and students or are unaffordable. But Craig sees that producing and making these tools accessible is only the first step in changing the prevailing approach to learning. Inspiring lasting changes in the education system requires a sustained effort to reach–and teach–the teachers, encouraging them to adopt creative approaches in their classrooms. To do this, he works closely with the national primary teachers' colleges, offering frequent workshops that introduce his products and help teachers learn how they may use them to engender curiosity, teach cooperation, and keep children in school. As Craig has begun to demonstrate, the teachers find many valuable professional development opportunities in the workshops. Furthermore, Craig encourages teachers to develop their own new tools, refine creative techniques, and mentor less experienced teachers by offering such incentives as awards given to truly inventive teachers, as well as prizes of free classroom games and toys that they can readily integrate into their curriculum. Although he primarily focuses on teachers, Craig applies his work beyond the traditional teaching sphere, offering progressive learning strategies to community health workers, environmental educators, and others.