novcover.jpg (13917 bytes)
December 1998

Animation culturelle

AG00041_.gif (503 bytes) Back to the College's Home Page

The Quest for Identity

By Pauline Couture

Next month, my daughter and her classmates will be going, somewhat hesitantly, to see a French rap group. She and her friends can hardly believe it. But she will be going, and it will give her yet another chance to see that life in French exists, even in Toronto, and that it is a many-splendoured thing that even embraces rap’s rhythmic beat.

When I asked her to tell me about the animation culturelle activities at her school, she didn’t know how to reply. She wasn’t even aware of its existence. Perhaps that’s because her school is doing it right.

Like many in Ontario’s French schools, her teachers have taken to heart the precept that animation culturelle is not a separate discipline. It is an integral part of the school’s daily life, and an aspect of every subject matter.

Rap may not have been exactly what the Ministry of Education and Training had in mind when it replaced the Fonds d’activités culturelles for French-language schools with the Support Fund for Animation Culturelle in 1996, and it may be too soon to properly assess the impact of this new fund and the activities it pays for. But according to College Council member Marilyn Laframboise, who teaches at École St-Jean-Baptiste in Amherstburg, the philosophy is that "culture is part of what we are, and what we do is to make sure it’s available in the schools."


The quest for identity in the English-language schools, which are often largely multicultural in urban areas, focuses on creating harmony out of diversity. The French-language schools are dealing with a completely different reality. Their work is often primarily preservation-oriented, and then development-oriented, and the path is often littered with barriers.

According to my daughter, the kids at her school have no desire whatsoever to speak French with one another, except for the roughly 15 per cent who are from France. In many cases, they would not even have chosen a French-language school. Their parents made that choice.

That is precisely the situation facing many of the teachers and volunteers who are involved in animation culturelle in their schools. A study published this year by the Ontario Ministry of Education and Training –Perspectives sur l’animation culturelle, Étude des premiers rapports du Fonds d’appui à l’animation culturelle – is both revealing and helpful.

According to the study, "Animation culturelle is a set of practices that emphasizes the French language and culture in the schools. These practices are designed to promote academic success and student development within the context of the franco-Ontarian schools’ special mandate. Animation culturelle is based on a model of cultural development that encourages students to forge a francophone identity in three stages: awakening, identification and involvement."


Providing a social and cultural forum in French can pose a considerable challenge in some schools. Students sometimes do not even speak enough French to participate fully in activities. In large cities, students from allophone homes are more common. In some cases, as in the English-language schools, part of the work involves accommodating and integrating young people from cultures very different from the franco-Ontarian culture.

Animation culturelle, which is now widely practised in French-language elementary and secondary schools across Ontario, may be relatively recent here, but it is no newcomer elsewhere.

The Université du Québec à Montréal has offered a bachelor’s degree in animation culturelle for more than 25 years. The program trains animateurs culturels and specialists in cultural intervention, animation and research, and is still the last word for those who want to specialize in the discipline. Others prefer to see animation culturelle as a way of looking at life. Laframboise says, "Ideally, it should filter through the entire day."

The MET study found that the arts are still the leading area for animation culturelle activities, followed by social and community activities and sports. However, one-quarter of the school boards surveyed found that fields "less traditionally linked with animation culturelle, primarily science, mathematics, technology and learning support" were coming into their own.


In most cases, the school still has almost sole responsibility for animation culturelle programs. In addition to teaching and scholastic activities, efforts are being made to implement regional or provincial initiatives that could provide a perspective on francophone youth. Partners in the field – including boards, sections, schools and students – put 52 per cent of the $1,607,042 spent on animation culturelle activities in Ontario’s French-language schools last year, evidence of an impressive commitment.

A number of boards have hired full-time staff to integrate animation culturelle activities into the regular curriculum, which may mean incorporating franco-Ontarian artists, educational radio or television or games club activities. "The resource person will bring in every aspect of the culture, including Christmas Réveillon festivities, French-Canadian traditions, St. Catherine’s Day, festivals and so on."

Teachers and volunteers can find many resources that they can access on the Internet. It offers teaching toolboxes for all age groups – ideas, worksheets, participation tools, artistic and musical components, and reports on successful events.

One such cheerful account concerns Thanksgiving at École Madeleine-de-Roybon in Kingston: "The school was hopping on the morning of October 11, and for good reason! Everyone – students, teachers, the janitor, the principal and vice-principal and a bevy of parents – were bustling about: who would prepare the potatoes, vegetables and corn, heat up the turkeys, gravy and stuffing, decorate the tables, set up the serving tables ... On the stroke of noon, everything was ready, our guests arrived and everyone sat down in the gymnasium. The meal was a veritable banquet. The student council made an excellent short presentation and received a gift of $200 from Barry O’Connor, our board’s director of education, toward its activities this year.

"The Thanksgiving luncheon was so successful that we decided to make it a tradition at Madeleine-de-Roybon. And it was everyone’s participation that made it such a success. Our very sincere thanks go to all the parents who helped out."

Animation Culturelle Resources

There is a wealth of resources to help teachers interested in animation culturelle. Two good sources are:

Fédération culturelle canadienne-française
Place de la francophonie
450 Rideau Street
Suite 405
Ottawa ON K1N 5Z4
Tel.: (613) 241-8770
or 1-800-267-2005

Alliance culturelle de l’Ontario
Michel Louis Beauchamp, Representative
203–282 Dupuis Street
Vanier ON K1L 7H9
Tel.: (613) 745-2322

Teachers may also find these web sites helpful:

Service Commun de la Documentation de l’Université de Metz

Centre d’Animation Culturelle de Stratford inc.

Another good web site

There’s also a range of related teaching materials:

A boxed set of 70 student worksheets and a 20-page teacher’s guide. The kit contains activities with an emphasis on fostering young people’s awareness of their identity as Franco-Ontarians while exploring mathematical concepts. Activities for students aged six to 15 include problem-solving, drawing, writing, diagrams and data tables. $14.95 For more information:  

Chansons + musiques Ontaroises (Songs and Music of Ontario)

Experience French Ontario’s new music through this recording of 14 different groups and artists performing 14 highly original songs. A mix of World Beat, ballad, pop, instrumental and hard rock, you can listen just for enjoyment, but it is also perfect for school radio stations, audio libraries and Friday night dances, and will complement some of your animation culturelle initiatives. For more information:

Coup de cœur – une fenêtre ouverte sur le patrimoine
(From the Heart: A Glimpse of Our Heritage)

Fun ways of discovering and learning to appreciate our francophone heritage, combined with integrated teaching. Ages six to 14. Worksheets: history- and culture-related activities that span several months. Students produce materials that can be used during Heritage Week, which takes place in February in Ontario. Fact-finder Sheets: references, documentation and tools for use with the activities. Event Sheets: guidelines for organizing Heritage Week events. For more information: