Monday, June 24, 2024

Les petits Débrouillards is 40 years old

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Maria Gill
Maria Gill
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The scientific movement Les Débrouillards, born in Quebec 40 years ago this year, gave the science bug to thousands of young people in twelve countries.

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“Les Débrouillards is a national treasure,” confirms the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the University of Montreal, Frederic Bouchard, who owes his first scientific sentiments to this movement at the age of eleven.

The movement, which celebrates its 40th anniversary in 2022, gathers 55,000 young people in Quebec each year at schools, day camps, and other recreation centers, as well as providing information on scientific issues in various businesses.

Mr. Bouchard and his friends knocked on the door of the editorial office where the magazine’s small editorial team prepared the experiments before putting them on the page.

“I still have my membership card,” says the man who became a philosopher of science. In his opinion, this movement allowed younger generations to discover science through the path of wonders. “It’s invaluable,” he says.

UQAM Science Education Professor Patrice Botvin experienced the same sentiments. “I received the book as a gift. It was great to witness the chemical reactions before our very eyes.

Today, he trains teachers and applies many of the ideas he learned from his early years at Débrouillard.

Goldstein's unmissable Beppo frog from the Journal de Montreal.

Illustration courtesy, Jack Goldstein

Goldstein’s unmissable Beppo frog from the Journal de Montreal.

Peyton, Zygon

Les Débrouillards was also a popular TV show with many young people.

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“We’re pitonne, we’re zigonne, we’ve got a patent, we’re inventing,” host Gregory Charles and his friends sing the lead theme song for the show that drew up to 500,000 viewers a week on Radio Canada in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Even if the TV adventure ended 20 years ago, it made an impression. “I still talk about it,” says actor and director Jan England, who grew up with Les Débrouillards. At eight, he was serializing messy experiments at the family home, and at 19, he co-hosted the show.

What does he owe to Debreuer? “My scientific awakening and my professional initiative,” says the person who will later host several programs and stage roles on television and on the big screen.

From Quebec to Africa

“I think science needs to be better understood by people. That was true 40 years ago and is still true today,” said Felix Malte, the man who launched the movement four decades ago. This project has been growing in dozens of French-speaking countries in Europe and Africa since then.

Hired to manage the magazine curium In 2014, Noémie Larouche took over from Félix Maltais a few months earlier. “I strongly believe in our mission, which is to allow young people to personalize science through fun,” summarizes the editor.

She noted that this pandemic has made scientific culture more necessary than ever, and the Debreuer family still has a lot to offer.

Crazy more than expected

The popularity of the movement created in Quebec 40 years ago has exceeded the expectations of its creators.

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“We didn’t think it would come this far,” he modestly launched the initiator of the Débrouillards movement, Félix Maltais.

Today, in semi-retirement in Saint Zenon, in Lanudiere, the 75-year-old sociologist led the Science Press Agency in its early years. This is where he had the idea to dedicate one page per week to short articles for children.

These short stories that offer easy-to-implement experiments in the kitchen are the most popular of all the agency’s products; Regional newspapers reproduced every week.

In view of this success, Mr. Maltais collects the most interesting things in a collection entitled little pranksterBored, illustrated for free by Calgary geologist Jack Goldstein.

“I’ve never seen myself on rigs; the Débrouillards let me paint for a living,” says the artist who created the troupe of young men who would become the stars of the magazine (Caro, Robert, etc.) and the untold frog Beppo.

instant success

Also born is the movement’s chief, Professor Scientifics, who we’ve never seen, but is in all the magazines (his name still appears on the cartridge).

The book, which presented some experiments, was an instant success and the publisher, Jean-Marc Gagnon, had to constantly reprint it. “That’s what we’ve built on,” summarizes Mr. Maltais.

“Multimedia” movement

Their Débrouillards Three magazines (1.3 million Copied)

  • explorers (6-10 years)
  • trick (10-14 years old)
  • curium (14-17 years)


  • More than 70 books from different publishers
  • TV series from 1990-2004 (scammers(and 2016-2017)science or magic) in Radio-Canada, Canal Famille, Télé-Québec, TV5, VRAQ or TFO
  • Science Animation Activities
  • Schools, day camps, recreation centers and children’s parties
  • In France, Belgium, Czech Republic, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria
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