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
raps rhythmic beat.
When I asked her to tell me about the animation culturelle activities at her school,
she didnt know how to reply. She wasnt even aware of its existence. Perhaps
thats because her school is doing it right.
Like many in Ontarios 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 schools 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 dactivités 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 its available in the schools."
A DIFFERENT REALITY
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
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 lanimation
culturelle, Étude des premiers rapports du Fonds dappui à lanimation
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
The Université du Québec à Montréal has offered a bachelors 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 Ontarios 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. Catherines Day, festivals and so
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 OConnor, our
boards 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 everyones participation that made it
such a success. Our very sincere thanks go to all the parents who helped out."