Philosophy and Research

Why Imagineaction?

“Probably the most inspiring for me was a student in class who won a poster from the book fair and decided on his own to sell tickets during recess and lunch for two weeks. He raised $99.50 which he also donated to the student whom the fundraiser was for. To me this is what the purpose of this project is about: Taking it upon ourselves to do something good for someone else without a goal of any reward. He was actually embarrassed when I shared his plan with the class!”

– Teacher, Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association

This is a story that plays out in many schools across the country. Imagine if this story was one that could be told about every student and every teacher in Canada. Imagine if every student and teacher worldwide told similar stories. Imagine…

Renowned educator and author, Paulo Freire, calls for educators to work with their students in creating a problem solving culture that will inevitably lead to transformation of their world. Teachers know that quality education is not about caching information in students so that it may be withdrawn at a later time – what Freire refers to as the “banking” concept. Quality educati on is about providing students with opportunities to infuse curriculum into real world situations. Education is about being part of a student’s journey as a life-long learner and problem solver – it is about teaching students to be critical thinkers and to look for opportunities to apply their knowledge in a transformative way.

“a student-driven social action movement”

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) has launched a bilingual program called Imagineaction that will assist teachers and their students to move beyond the increasingly standards based, test-driven education agenda by providing opportunities to link curricula to community-based projects aimed at transformation.

There is recent evidence that speaks to the discussion at hand. The first of these is a report of a workshop conducted by the Landon Pearson Resource Centre as part of their “Shaking the Movers” initiative. The second is results of a survey of teachers from six provinces and territories conducted by CTF. The final evidence is from the analysis of a national public opinion poll conducted by Vector Research and commissioned by CTF.

In her report for the Landon Pearson Resource Centre, Ilana Lockwood provides a summary of students’ perceptions regarding three articles from the United Nati ons Convention on the Rights of the Child. When commenting on the right to educati on and the barriers to access, students point out that the school and the community should be engaged as partners in young people’s lives. Further, students call for education to provide them with the skills they need to be active participants in society. As one student commented “The main reason behind education should be to empower children” (Lockwood, 2009, p. 11). Another student said: “An important part of education is to learn to make decisions and to deal with issues properly.” (Lockwood, 2009, p. 12).

In regard to teaching, students had a number of comments. Especially relevant to the discussion at hand are those regarding inclusion and the teaching of civics. On engagement students commented “you can’t be engaged when you are excluded”, and “people assume that because you’re not on student council, you’re not involved. Give students a chance to show that they care in other ways.” (Lockwood, 2009, pp. 19-20). These two students are expressing a desire to not only be included in the school community but to be provided with an opportunity to demonstrate their skills in a tangible way.

The evidence provided from the teacher survey was strikingly similar to the evidence provided by the public opinion poll. The message sent by both the teachers and the parents was also very similar to the message sent by the students. Chart 1 shows those parents and teachers who strongly agree or somewhat agree that values and ethical behaviour, human rights, environmental protection, peacemaking and participatory democracy should be taught in the public school system. It is evident that both parents and teachers agree that these topics should be part of the public school curriculum.

Further results from the surveys include:

  • 96% of both parents and teachers either somewhat agree or strongly agree that schools should be involved in community projects;
  • 98% of parents either strongly agree or somewhat agree that when community organizations support community-school projects it fosters citizenship and nurtures community-school relationships;
  • 96% of parents polled either strongly or somewhat agree that it is possible that student-led projects will bring about positive change in a community;
  • Over 96% of parents and 100% of teachers believe that it is very important or somewhat important to develop elementary and secondary students’ critical thinking skills.

Imagineaction is designed to assist teachers meet the stated desire of parents, teachers and students to use a critical thinking model to teach citizenship through active participation in community-based projects. Imagineaction provides support for students and teachers in English and French schools across the country wishing to incorporate topics related to socially just citizenship. Support for teachers and their students is provided in four ways: funding subsidies, access to expertise, professional development, and a project showcase.

Funding opportunities are provided for school-community social acti on projects tied to the Imagineaction themes:

  • Connect [relationships]
  • Engage [active and participatory democracy]
  • Thrive [health and wellness]
  • Lead [leadership]
  • Live [environmental sustainability]
  • Care [poverty]

Teachers will be able to register their projects and apply for funding. Teachers are also able to browse current and past projects in order to connect with colleagues across the country to share their good ideas.

Teachers mentioned clearly that they required access to professional development opportunities and other resources to assist them in introducing these rather complex topics to their students. Teachers also told us that they would like a resource to assist them in setting up a project in their school. In partnership with the Critical Thinking Consortium, CTF is developing resources that will provide the assistance that teachers requested.

The Imagineaction platform offers a space that allows teachers to upload text, pictures, video and other media. This media will be formatted for them on a Web page used to promote the good work that they are doing with their students in their community.

The fundamental principle driving the Imagineaction movement may be summarized in the following quote from Paulo Freire:

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. 

– Paulo Freire, 1968

It is our hope that Imagineaction will serve as a catalyst to inspire teachers and their students to think critically about the world around them and to act to make their community a better place. Imagine the possibilities!


  • Lockwood, Ilana. Final Report: Shaking the Movers III. Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights. Ottawa, ON, 2009.
  • Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Analysis of CTF teacher survey – Fostering responsible citizenship. Ottawa, ON, Richard Riel & Bernie Froese-Germain, 2010.
  • The Vector Poll. The 2010 national issues in educati on poll: Conducted February 18 – March 5, 2010 for the Canadian Teachers’ Federation. Ottawa, ON, 2010.

Pauline Théoret is the coordinator of Imagineaction at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.