Request a package from: The Dragon Academy

 School information package
 Curriculum and admission information
 Schedule a visit or tour
 Employment opportunities

Contact me by:
please provide your first name
please provide your last name
please provide your email address
please provide your phone number
please enter the code
verification image, type it in the box

Our Kids

This contact form is brought to you by Our Kids – The Trusted Source for thousands of families since 1998.

Dragon Academy
The Dragon Academy
35 Prince Arthur Avenue
Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1B2
Contact name:
Meg Fox, Ph.D.

Phone number:
(416) 323-3243×
Dragon Academy

The Dragon Academy

35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1B2

Grades (Gender):
6 to 12 (Coed)
$20,500 to 26,500/year
Main Language:
Avg. Class Size:
6 to 12
Day: 75 (Gr. 6 - 12)

get more information Get more information

Contact Name:
Meg Fox, Ph.D.

Phone Number:

School Address
35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 1B2

About this school:

Using the city-as-school--museums, research facilities, performances, academic and cultural institutions--Dragons engage with cutting-edge practitioners. Exploring, discussing, questioning, Dragons become true critical thinkers, university-bound in fields from engineering to visual arts. Dragon’s small discussion-based classes, inclusivity, expert mentor-teachers, STEAM subject integration (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) and experiential learning are progressive and gifted. Be a Dragon.

Upcoming Events Next event: December 02, 2015

upcoming events
  • December 02, 2015The Art of Education
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Join us Wednesday, December 02 from 06:00 am - 08:00 am

    Join our roundtable discussion with a panel of experts on artistic cognition--"design thinking" or aesthetic learning, and its integration in Dragon's educational approach

  • December 17, 2015Art Cafe
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Join us Thursday, December 17 from 06:00 am - 08:00 am

    An exciting vernissage of Dragon students' creative work, from paintings to open mike performances.  Come celebrate our creativity and community.

  • December 17, 2015First round of acceptances
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Register by Thursday, December 17 from 09:00 am

    We will offer our first confirmed placements for the 2016-17 year to applicants who have completed the process by December, 2016.

  • February 15, 2016Tuition assistance
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Register by Monday, February 15 from 09:00 am

    We will offer tuition assistance and scholarships to approved applicants who have completed the process by this date.

  • February 24, 2016Experiential Learning
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Join us Wednesday, February 24 from 06:00 am - 08:00 am

    Experience is the best teacher--come to a roundtable exploring the ways in which we move from textbook reportage to hands-on involvement across the subject fields. 

  • May 18, 2016Scientists in Action
    Dragon Academy, 35 Prince Arthur Avenue, Toronto, Ontario
    Join us Wednesday, May 18 from 06:00 am - 08:00 am

    Dragon's unique Scientists in Action program brings cutting edge researchers to talk with our students about their career paths, choices, and discoveries, brings Dragon students to their laboratories to see research in action, participate as lab assistants, and conduct their own experiments, and supports long-term experimental and research work by our students.  Come see what they've discovered, and meet our scientist affiliates.

Principal's Message


Dr. Meg Fox, Principal

To learn is an active not a passive verb.  At The Dragon, we pursue meaningful learning through discussion, participation, experience. Beginning with a handful of adventurous students in 2001, The Dragon has earned a well-deserved reputation for excellence and educational leadership.

Our mission is to develop individual capability. Our students are high achievers and go on to post-secondary success, but a Dragon education is much more than scores and admissions.  Our academic program is demanding and compelling, but we are as interested in the development of character as we are in scholastic achievement. Using the resources of a great city, we engage students with their own potential, and with the role they can play in society.  Dragon alumni frequently tell us how the school has been a home to them, and how it inspired them on a journey of self-discovery.  By engaging our students in a purposeful search for knowledge and truth, we have become leaders in progressive education.

The Dragon Academy needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. We encourage prospective students and their families to visit us.  This is a better measure of the right fit than a raft of admissions tests and reference letters. To visit us, please contact the Registrar. We look forward to meeting you.



Curriculum Gifted

Primary Curriculum: Gifted
Full-time gifted schools allow the intellectual needs of gifted students to be supported without compromise. Generally the curriculum is delivered at an increased pace and with a higher level of individualized enrichment.

  • Gifted offered:

    Program = offered
    All students at your school are gifted
    Not all students at your school are gifted

  • Pedagogies and subject courses

  • Mathematics Equal Balance

      These math programs feature an equal balance of “Traditional” and “Discovery” methods.
      Learn about the different mathematics approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: Math is a beautiful language, a tool for understanding and acting on the world. Traditional practices ensure our students attain skills mastery while we explore and discover the dynamic conceptual potential of mathematical thinking. Our students participate in Cariboo and Waterloo math contests, where they excel.

    • Textbooks and supplementary materials: We rely on both the Trillium recommended Nelson series and enrich from Saxon and Jump math texts, as well as applications from the wider world.

    • Calculator policy: Calculators are a convenient tool, not a crutch.

    Writing Process approach

      The process approach to teaching beginner writing aims to get students writing “real things” as much as possible and as soon as possible. The goal is to create the right environmental conditions to encourage a love of writing and a motivation to write well. With children invested in the writing process -- through assignments children find meaningful -- students are then given feedback on how they can improve.
      Learn about the different writing approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: Writing is a way of thinking as well as a way of communicating. Those who write for a living themselves work in process, and, as with piano-playing, it is the practise of writing that makes perfect. Writing across all the subject fields is rooted in meaningful assignments (we are big on journalling, opinion pieces, creative writing, topic choice), and in editing and revision.

    Science Inquiry

      Inquiry-based science emphasizes teaching science as a way of thinking or practice, and therefore tries to get students “doing” science as much as possible -- and not just “learning” it. Students still learn foundational scientific ideas and content (and build on this knowledge progressively); however, relative to expository science instruction, inquiry-based programs have students spend more time developing and executing their own experiments (empirical and theoretical). Students are frequently challenged to develop critical and scientific-thinking skills by developing their own well-reasoned hypothesis and finding ways to test those hypotheses. Projects and experiments are emphasized over textbook learning. Skills are emphasized over breadth of knowledge.
      Learn about the different science approaches  

    • Teaching approach: Dragon's rigourous and challenging science courses are part of our Scientists in Action program, which brings eminent research scientists to host roundtables at the school, brings our students to tour and work in cutting edge laboratories, and challenges our students to understand how science has altered our world, and can offer solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

    • Topics covered in curriculum:

      Subject = offered
    • Treatment of evolution:

      Evolution as consensus theory
      Evolution as one of many equally viable theories
      Evolution is not taught

    Literature Equal Balance

      These literature programs draw in equal measure from “Traditional” and “Social Justice” programs.
      Learn about the different literature approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: Dragon's founder and principal holds a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Toronto and is herself a writer. The magic of language, the importance of foundational, challenging, "classic" texts, the tools of expert literary critical analysis are all stressed. But literature is also the expression of culture, and should be understood contextually, criticised where it enshrines prejudices and unenlightened social norms. It can be propaganda, it can be art, it can be historically and socially revealing. Dragons read to understand in a complex and thoughtful way.

    Social Studies
    • What Dragon Academy says: [Dragon Academy has not provided this information]

    Humanities and Social Sciences Equal Balance

      These programs represent an equal balance between the perennialist and pragmatic approach to teaching the humanities and social sciences.
      Learn about the different humanities and social sciences approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: Philosophers really do know important things, and we would be depriving our students of much of the riches of the past if we did not honour classical texts, or nurture their cultural literacy. At the same time, the social sciences are all too often neglected in high school, and we want our students to have many lenses through which to understand the past, how it has determined the present, and what the future might look like.

    Foreign Languages Communicative

      The communicative method of language acquisition emphasizes the use of the target language in authentic contexts. The approach commonly features interactive group work, games, authentic texts, and opportunities to learn about the cultural background of the language. Drills and quizzes may still be used, but less frequently than with the audio-lingual method.
      Learn about the different foreign languages approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: Even in learning Latin (we offer regular classes in Latin and in French, with opportunities for studying other foreign languages depending on student interest), we think it is crucial to see language as a living expression of culture, not just a dead weight of grammatical forms. We do a lot of talking in our foreign language courses, and delve into the socio-historical context and cultural impact of the languages we teach.

    • Studying a foreign language is required until:   10
    • Languages Offered: • French • Latin • Spanish • ESL

    Fine Arts Creative

      Creative arts programs are studio-driven. While historical works and movements may still be taught to add context to the program, students mainly engage in making art (visual, musical, theatrical, etc). The goal is use the actual practice of art to help educate students’ emotions, cognition, and ethos.
      Learn about the different fine arts approaches  

    • Program offers:

      Subject = offered
      Visual Arts
    • Visual studio philosophy:

    • What Dragon Academy says: We privilege the expressive--we think the arts are a crucial part of any real education, and not just for those who are "good" at them by inborn talent. But we are disciplined too--our students become sophisticated critics, aesthetically sophisticated, learn their history, and practise many forms and media.

    Computers and Technology Medium integration

      Effort is made to integrate the development of digital literacy through the curriculum. However, this is not a dominant focus.
      Learn about the different computers and technology approaches  

    • What Dragon Academy says: We do offer computer science courses, and our arts offerings include digital media. We have a computer lab, we make films, compose music, publish an online journal. Many of our students use laptops or tablets in class and at home, and many of our teachers take advantage of the digital world to enrich their presentation. But discussion is the heart of Dragon pedagogy.

    • Program covers:

      Subject = offered
      Computer science
      Web design

    Physical Education
    • What Dragon Academy says: The Ontario Curriculum calls the subject Healthy Active Living Education--emphasizing physical and health literacy. There are lots of opportunities for adolescents to participate in team sports. Dragon's Healthy Active Living program builds resilience and a secure identity, while laying the groundwork for lifelong health, through frank, open discussion, collaboration with others, and the enjoyment of games and movement.

    • Dragon Academy's approach to sex-ed: We have always talked freely and truthfully with our students about sex, exploring sexual development, reproductive health, choice and sexual readiness, consent, abstinence, and protection, relationships, sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, roles and expectations, affection and pleasure, body image. We applaud the revisions to the Ontario Curriculum which go beyond the mere anatomy and physiology of reproduction.

    Religious Education
    • What Dragon Academy says: [Dragon Academy has not provided this information]

    Curriculum Pace Accelerated

    • Standard-enriched
    • Accelerated
    • Student-paced

    The main curriculum accelerates beyond the pace of the provincial one; ALL students do the work of OLDER public-school peers in tangible and measurable ways. This accelerated pace is maintained by the teachers and school, (through textbook selection, topic selection, grading, assignment standards and expectations, etc).

    What Dragon Academy says: Enriched content, integrated across subject fields, connected to current events, discoveries and Toronto's world class museum and university offerings, in university-seminar style discussion based classes, sparks creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.

    Flexible pacing:

    Flexible pacing style = offered
    Subject-streaming (tracking)
    Multi-age classrooms as standard
    Ability-grouping (in-class) as common
    Frequent use of cyber-learning (at-their-own-pace)
    Regular guided independent study opportunities
    Differentiated assessment

    What Dragon Academy says about flexible pacing: [Dragon Academy has not provided this information]

    Academic Culture Rigorous

    • Rigorous
    • Supportive

    A school with a “rigorous” academic culture places a high value on academic performance, and expects their students to do the same. This does not mean the school is uncaring, unsupportive, or non-responsive -- far from it. A school can have a rigorous academic culture and still provide excellent individual support. It does mean, however, the school places a particular emphasis on performance -- seeking the best students and challenging them to the fullest extent -- relative to a normal baseline. High expectations and standards – and a challenging yet rewarding curriculum – are the common themes here. Keep in mind this classification is more relevant for the older grades: few Kindergarten classrooms, for example, would be called “rigorous”.

    What Dragon Academy says: The choice between rigourous and supportive is a false dichotomy. All Dragon courses are academically rigourous and intellectually challenging, pushing our students to being critical and philosophical, and culturally astute. We also believe in their potential, the process of self-discovery, the pleasures of collaboration and mutual support. There is nothing simple about the love of learning and lifelong curiosity. The pushing and the pulling are intertwined.

    Developmental Priorities Intellectual, Social

    Primary Developmental Priority: Intellectual
    Academically strong, creative, and critical thinkers, capable of exercising rationality, apprehending truth, and making aesthetic distinctions.

    Secondary Developmental Priority: Social
    Socially aware and active citizens, motivated to change the world (or their community) for the better.

    What Dragon Academy says: The best education develops freedom of expression, creativity, collaboration and a commitment to social justice. Experiential learning deep exploration of intellectual and cultural knowledge, discussion based learning, openness to new ideas and new endeavours, using the city as school, exploring the riches of a world-class city, equip Dragon graduates as democratic thinkers, true citizens of the world.

    Special Needs Support Mild difficulties

    Mild difficulties

    Dragon Academy can provide support for mild disablities. Dragon Academy does NOT provide specialized support for moderate-to-severe learning disabilities, developmental disabililties, behavioural/emotional disorders, or physical disabilities.

    • Academic Support:

      Support Type = offered
      Learning strategy and study counselling; habit formation
      Extra support and minor accommodations for children experiencing subclinical difficulties
    • Mild but clinically diagnosed ADHD

      Support Type = offered
      Extra support
    • What Dragon Academy says: Giftedness is co-related to many other learning exceptionalities--anxiety and depression, ADHD, high-functionning Autism. We treat each student as an individual, and provide informal and thorough support for individual achievement.

    Gifted Learner Support Very High

    Very High

    Dragon Academy is a full-time gifted school and so offers a highly specialized environment for gifted learners.

    What Dragon Academy says: Dragon is a school for gifted students--the pace, intensity and depth of our classwork, the gifts of our faculty, reflect and support our students' choices beyond high school. Dragons are university-bound, and will be leaders and innovators.

    Homework Policy

    In grade 12, The Dragon Academy students perform an average of >2 hours of homework per night.

    Nightly Homework
    Dragon Academy30 mins30 mins30 mins45 mins60 mins90 mins160 mins
    Site Average46 mins60 mins65 mins79 mins89 mins102 mins113 mins

    Report Card Policy

    How assessments are delivered across the grades:

    Lettered or numbered grades6 to 12
    Prose (narrative)-based feedback6 to 12
    Academic achievement reporting6 to 12
    Habits and behaviour reporting6 to 12
    Parent-teacher meetings6 to 12


    What Dragon Academy says:

    The Dragon Academy has not provided this information.

    • Sports OfferedCompetitiveRecreational
      Ice Hockey
      Track & Field
      Cross-country skiing
    • Clubs Offered
      Art Club
      Astronomy Club
      Audiovisual Club
      Chess Club
      Community Service
      Debate Club
      Drama Club
      Environmental Club
      Foreign Language Club
      Habitat for Humanity
      Jazz Ensemble
      Musical theatre/Opera
      Online Magazine
      Poetry/Literature club
      Robotics club
      School newspaper
      Science Club
      Student Council

    Tuition & Financial Aid



    Day Day (International)
    Day (International)$26,500
    What Dragon Academy says: Base tuition applies to single full payment, and does not include texts, extracurriculars or trips.


    Discount TypeEnrollment TypeAmount
    2nd child (sibling)Day$1,000

    Need-based financial aid

    Dragon Academy has not provided this information.

    Merit based Scholarships

    The John Roberts Scholarship
    Amount: $2,500
    Deadline: Rolling
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 9 to 12—

    The John Roberts Scholarship, established in 2007, at $2,500, is awarded to a new or returning student. The scholarship is applied against school fees in the year in which it is awarded. Preference is given to children who are involved in service to their local communities or social institutions, student leadership and participation in co-curricular activities. This scholarship is awarded to a student at The Dragon Academy who shows promise in the cultivation of his or her humanity, in his or her dedication to making the world a better place.

    Application Details:

    Only students who have been accepted into The Dragon Academy are eligible for consideration. To apply for either scholarship or bursary requires: submission of a letter outlining the reasons for financial aid and specifying the amount sought, along with completion of school's form (online or can be requested by email) and copies of the applicant's family tax returns for the past two years. John Roberts Scholarship: Two letters of recommendation are required: one from a current teacher and another written by someone other than family, focusing on what makes the student a strong candidate for the award (involvement in service to their local communities or social institutions, student leadership and participation in co-curricular activities, as well as an academic average of 80% or above). The award is without reference to gender, is only open to students enrolled at The Dragon Academy, and the financial portion of the scholarship is tied to financial need.

    For more details, visit: www.dragonacademy.org/about.html
    The Kristine Bogyo Scholarship
    Amount: $2,500
    Deadline: Rolling
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 9 to 12—

    Established in 2007, The Kristine Bogyo Scholarship, for $2,500, is awarded to a new or returning student who has demonstrated exceptional ability in the arts, including drama, music or fine arts. This scholarship is applied against school fees in the year in which it is awarded.

    Application Details:

    Only students who have been accepted into The Dragon Academy are eligible for consideration. To apply for either scholarship or bursary requires: submission of a letter outlining the reasons for financial aid and specifying the amount sought, along with completion of school's form (online or can be requested by email) and copies of the applicant's family tax returns for the past two years. Kristine Bogyo Scholarship: Two letters of recommendation are required: one from a current teacher and another written by someone other than family, focusing on what makes the student a strong candidate for the award (demonstrating exceptional ability in the arts). Candidates must complete an application that includes a personal profile/resume and portfolio, videotape, CD or DVD. The award is without reference to gender, is only open to students enrolled at The Dragon Academy, and the financial portion of the scholarship is tied to financial need.

    For more details, visit: www.dragonacademy.org/about.html
    Sam Fox Scholarship
    Amount: $2,500
    Deadline: N/A
    Eligibility Details: Students grade 10 to 12—

    For a student with demonstrated commitment to social justice.  Please see our application package for details.


    Total enrollment 75
    Average enrollment per grade11
    Gender (grades)6 to 12 (Coed)
    Boarding offeredNo

    Student distribution: We do not have this data for The Dragon Academy




    The Dragon Academy has not provided this information

    University Placement

    Services = offered
    Career planning
    Mentorship Program
    University counseling
    Key Numbers
    Average graduating class sizeN/A
    *Canadian "Big 6" placementsN/A
    **Ivy+ placementsN/A

    *Number of students in 2015 who attended one of McGill, U of T, UBC, Queen's University of Alberta or Dalhousie.

    **Number of students since 2005 that attended one of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, University of Chicago, Oxford or Cambridge (UK)

    Stories & Testimonials



    Where the Shoe Fits


    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of kid The Dragon fits. Who does best here?  And, selfishly, whom do I like to teach?  I ought to know, shouldn’t I?  The school was certainly my idea in the first place.


    When people ask me what kind of student I’m looking for, my first impulse is to say a nice kid.  The worst plague of adolescence, and probably of international politics too, is the bully, the selfish, insecure creep who wants to reify his or her own ego by crushing others’.  Middle school comes at the worst moment, the dark night of puberty, when your body betrays you, your hormones run wild, your emotions have the whip hand, and you also have math homework and a curfew.  Even in very small, supportive environments like The Dragon’s, these overcharged and insecure beings are eying each other nervously.  Inexperienced in the judgement of character, relatively naïve about the projection of image, they struggle to assess each other other, their own social impact, the pecking order of the group.  And then they engage in the struggle for place.  If a student comes to us without the stirrings of empathy, the desire to be decent and kind, he or she can throw a whole class into turmoil.  To be successful at collaborative learning, you have to want to collaborate, not put down.


    My second thought is a Dragon student needs to be a reader.  All right, my dyslexic friends, a bookworm, whether you devour books on tape or as a wave file or on a Kindle, or in my favourite old technology.  Because the founder of The Dragon is a great and constant reader herself, because she loves books so much she even writes them, and because books are their own kind of museum, a museum of thought, books play a goodly role at The Dragon.  Books and what’s in them are the foundation for two of our central tenets:  you bring what you’ve found out to a discussion based class, and you want to know the best that’s been thought and said, to remember the soul’s history, Spender says. 


    So a Dragon student is a thinker. Although it has more than four letters, “think” is a good old Anglo-Saxon word, originally meaning “to cause something to seem or to appear to oneself.” A thinker, then, is an active being, a person who has both the power to think and is engaged in thinking.  All too many students have already learned that the power to think gets you in trouble, and engaging is thinking is not something that you will do on the exam. Eager to please, they learn that the high achieving student displays information, and they have become terrified of engaging with ideas.  What if the answer is wrong? A Dragon student needs to be fearless, ready to enter the scrum of understanding.[1]


    And then I think, a Dragon student is a creative soul. Creative is another great word, from the Latin, meaning “to bring into being, to make”.  A creative student is originative, productive.   It’s not about art necessarily or about volume.  It’s about bringing something into reality, of yourself, your ideas, your hopes.  I know this is a challenge, but you can’t participate in a true education through repetition, imitation, or regurgitation. 


    And then, selfishly, because a teacher has to have a good time too, I’m looking for a student with a sense of humour.  I like to tease people, I like to be teased, it’s wonderful to be able to laugh instead of pull long faces and set punishments.  I love the wits, the one-liners that let you stop in the middle of some earnest explication and see the possibility of delight. (All right, my Aspberger’s friends, I know you’ll have to think about that, but admit that you too like to play.)


    The other things Dragon students have been described as seem less important to me.  It’s true my students are no slouches.  But the gifted label can be a burden to carry.  Such strange expectations accompany it, as if it were undemocratic, unsporting somehow, to be smarter than average, while acceptable to be more athletic or better-looking than average.  As if you needed to be taken down a peg or two.  And while lots of successful Dragon students have tested gifted, lots of others don’t or can’t.  What they all have, what they bring, are deeper gifts, the things they teach each other and us, their teachers, every day—about the courage to persist, the other ways to demonstrate knowledge of curriculum content, about trains. 


    I use “non-conformist” as shorthand sometimes, meaning they are individuals, and not afraid to be, which is not the same thing many people thing of as non-conformist.  A lot of great Dragon students have been square pegs being hammered into round holes in more conventional schools, and yes their sense of costume is quite highly developed.  But it’s not that most of them set out to be outrageous.  It’s that they want to be true to themselves. 


    And besides compassion, empathy, I am looking for that other aspect of heart: courage.  My best students have been risk takers, and the children of risk takers. There are many things wrong with the great world, not just the small world of middle-class western education.  I am interested in those Young Persons who look around them with clear eyes, and see what is wrong with the world, who have the imagination to see how it could be better, the analytical strength to see how to bring about change, and above all the courage to tackle change.  This kind of transformative courage begins with small changes, with changing yourself, and what you know. A good education will not make such changes in and of itself.  It will not move the world.  But a good education is a wonderful place to stand, for a nice, kind, book-loving, free-thinking, risk-taking, creative individualist with a sense of humour. 



    In case your English teacher didn’t make you memorise it, here is Stephen Spender’s poem.


    I Think Continually Of Those Who Were Truly Great


    I think continually of those who were truly great.

    Who, from the womb, remembered the soul's history

    Through corridors of light where the hours are suns

    Endless and singing. Whose lovely ambition

    Was that their lips, still touched with fire,

    Should tell of the Spirit clothed from head to foot in song.

    And who hoarded from the Spring branches

    The desires falling across their bodies like blossoms.


    What is precious is never to forget

    The essential delight of the blood drawn from ageless springs

    Breaking through rocks in worlds before our earth.

    Never to deny its pleasure in the morning simple light

    Nor its grave evening demand for love.

    Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother

    With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.


    Near the snow, near the sun, in the highest fields

    See how these names are feted by the waving grass

    And by the streamers of white cloud

    And whispers of wind in the listening sky.

    The names of those who in their lives fought for life

    Who wore at their hearts the fire's center.

    Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,

    And left the vivid air signed with their honor.


    [1] You might wonder, at this point, why I don’t then wish for a talker.  The truth is, in discussion based, teacher-mentored, intimate classes, we have ways of making you talk.



    I Want to Take Everything:  Intellectual Curiosity


    At the time half my students were crowded into my office and all talking at once about their elective course choices and conflicts, I took it as the usual craziness of early September and scheduling headaches.  I teased and cajoled and promised to do what I could, and reminded everyone that popular courses would be available next year too, so that I was going to start by seeing that things worked out for the grade 12s.  Sarah Beatty spent most of Friday reworking the schedule (artists are better than algorithms for working out schedules, which is fundamentally a visual task, requiring you to see the solution), and I was ready to take off for the weekend. 

    On Saturday night, my dear friend Doug Freake, who is a professor of Humanities at York (and with whom I went to graduate school in the late Cretaceous), was hosting a dinner party.  He had particularly wanted to introduce his friends Sol and Bessie Goldberg, who are also academics.  I imagined them to be in their early seventies, the kind of Jewish intellectuals who had been radicalized during the McCarthy era.  They turned out to be handsome Young Persons, on the cutting edge of inter-disciplinary daring, he working on a post-doctoral fellowship positioned in both Philosophy and Near Eastern Studies, she “dissertating” on my favourite novel by Jane Austen, Mansfield Park.  Since the other guest was my colleague Seth who did his own dissertating on political philosophy, you can imagine that the conversation was profoundly interesting.

    The moment when the abstract concept of democratic education and the concrete educational incidents of The Dragon Academy came together, I found myself trying to describe the school and the very particular and original kind of learning that goes on there. I was trying to explain that your could teach absolutely anything through discussion.  I argued that it was also the only way to foster free thinking, which is necessary to democratic success, and freedom of expression, which is an emblem of democracy.   We were in a knotty place, where we were trying to distinguish between education and schooling (academic materialism, I think of schooling as being, the collecting of credits and degrees and gold stars).  We also wanted to distinguish between the things you needed to understand in order to participate meaningfully in the democratic process and the things anyone who participated in a democratic education could understand.  People who care about teaching and learning don’t give you much of an argument against the necessity of critical thinking, of bringing philosophical concepts like reason and justice and responsibility into the curriculum.  But they can balk at original texts, and doubt whether untrained minds are ready to consider metaphysical and ethical questions.

    Bessie certainly understood that you can’t just put critical thinking on hold, schooling people relentlessly until they’ve stockpiled enough information, and then grant them license to think for themselves, or expect them to express themselves freely.  She talked about how Henry Crawford in Mansfield Park had been spoiled because the moral expectations of his guardians, and his society, were so low.  Seth talked about his first class in Philosophy, and the lively discussion about how we understand the world that sprang from his helping them to define metaphysics and ethics, and to think about which comes first.  Doug brought Kant’s categorical imperative forward, bravely sharing with two philosophers how he would explain it to his second year Humanities’ students.  He was not expecting them to read Kant’s Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.   But he thought it was important to expose them to ideas, to help them see what a richness of thought there was in the world, to entice them to discover it.  I wanted to illustrate how adolescents could master really complex ideas, although they were usually cheated of the challenge by curriculum fogeys who confused an interest in Green Day with intellectual limitation.  “They can read almost anything, if you’re prepared to walk through it with them,” I said. “Adolescents are ready to rise to Plato’s Republic.”  Sol thought we were talking about selected passages. 

    “No,” Seth said, “I’m planning to reading it out loud with them in class, all of it, and discuss it.” Sol thought this was a pretty risky project.  We all tried to remember how old we had been the first time we’d actually read the whole of the Republic. Sol revealed doubts about Plato’s reliability, and we made a number of jokes about how annoying Socrates must have been, and why he was forced to drink hemlock.

    “A lot of the pleasure of university, for me,” I said, “was that we were finally really reading things, not bowdlerized texts or watered down abridgements or dull irrelevancies, but challenging and important things. Why do we think that you can’t start thinking critically until university?  Why should they have to wait, while we try to stuff their heads with ‘answers’?   I’ve read amazing stuff with my high school students,”  I said. 

    Seth’s students had understood Heart of Darkness, and Machiavelli’s The Prince.

    “I read all of Dante’s Inferno out loud twice last year,” I said,  “once to the Grade 10s and once to the Grade 9s.”

    “The kids really loved those classes too,” Seth said, kindly.

    “In fact, they were all crowded into my office on Friday,” I said, “wanting schedule changes so they could take Biology and Philosophy, English Literature and World History.”

    “And the whole school wants to take Anthropology,” said Seth. 

    “They don’t want spares or bird courses.  They want a democratic education in another sense.  They want to take everything.” And I thought, I want to take everything too.  I want to sit in on the Physics course, and Media Studies, and take drumming with the grade 7 music students.  I really want to range over world literature with Doug, and read Bessie’s thesis, and hear Sol lecture on the opening words of Genesis.

    “That’s what I love about being an intellectual,” Doug said.  “You’ll never run out of ideas.”  Then he read us the quote from Sir Isaac Newton that he was putting on the first page of his course kit for his Introduction to Humanities Course, the one where he was going to explain the categorical imperative, and read both The Tale of Genji and Heart of Darkness.  ‘I was like a boy playing on the sea-shore,’ Newton wrote, ‘and diverting myself now and them finding a smoother pebble, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.’” 

     And we thought for a moment about the great ocean of truth, and how passionately we wanted our students to look up from the pebbles they were fumbling, and out across its wide expanse.  We’re doing something right, I thought, if Philosophy and Anthropology and Biology are popular courses, if our students want to take everything.  And by the way, Doug and Bessie and Sol have promised to come in as guest teachers at The Dragon.




    It started with Adrian.  He said that he was tired of being labeled gifted and suggested we call him “burdened” instead.  I admit to being startled as well as distraught.  I don’t like to think of someone being made to suffer for who he is, and being gifted is a quality as inborn as the colour of your eyes or the shape of your nose.  You can certainly disguise it or I suppose have it surgically altered, but why would you want to?  Which is why I was so startled, because I have always thought it made so many things easier, being extremely smart, and it certainly made things interesting.


    And then, not long after, I was in English class with my grade 9 students. We are working our way, this year, through the great, disturbing classics of the nineteenth century, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula,  Browning’s  My Last Duchess.  We were reading Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, a text I favour, like so many of my colleagues.  It’s compulsively readable, an irresistible combination of that heavily perfumed, languid, poetic writing and a brilliantly Freudian horror twist.  It allows you to talk about two key periods of English literature, the Victorian and the Modern, and the turning point between them.  It raises the issues of gender identification and sexual orientation, and it’s still subversive, glamourous, seductive.  There is no better text for getting adolescents talking about art and morality. 


    I was reading the first chapter out loud.  “There is a fatality about all physical and intellectual distinction,”  Basil Hallward, the artist who paints the fatal portrait, says,  “the sort of fatality that seems to dog through history the faltering steps of kings.  It is better not to be different from one’s fellows.  The ugly and the stupid have the best of it in this world. They live as we all should live, undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet. Your rank and wealth my art, Dorian Gray’s good looks—we shall all suffer for what the gods have given us, suffer terribly.”  


    “He’s right,” Lydia interjected.  “I wish I wasn’t so intelligent.”


    And there it was, two very bright, creative kids of sterling character, from supportive families, in a school jam-packed with exceptional students, who found being brainy a burden.  My first thought was that to live “undisturbed, indifferent, and without disquiet” would be a kind of hell for me, a suffocating boredom.  Why would you want to give up all the gifts that being gifted brings, the heightened sensitivity, the rich inner life, the originality of imagination, the quickness of apprehension?  In my experience, Renzulli is right—there is more than high measureable intelligence, there is motivational energy and creativity.  Gifted kids move in a world that is sensually, emotionally, imaginatively and intellectually rich.  Who would not revel in the experience?


    But then I thought, just because it is a difference, and a rare enough difference, it is also a disability in the ordinary world.  Being gifted makes it impossible to move through the world undisturbed.  Every fallen sparrow, every loud noise, every instance of irrational behaviour, every question left unanswered, the smell of cooked cabbage, the scratch of a wool turtleneck, disturbs you.  Being gifted makes it impossible to be indifferent.  Any piece of work to which you turn your hand must be perfect.  The distance between what you conceive and what you realize torments you.  Injustice enrages you.  You can’t keep your mouth shut, even when you know you’re going to get in trouble.  You need meaning; you need complication.  Even small differences are significant to you, because you can perceive them, and understand their implications.  And to live without disquiet?  Once you refuse the pat answers and come to know what’s going on? John Milton could have been writing about gifted kids instead of Adam and Eve and the apple, “of man’s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe”. 


    I think there’s another element too, the Frankenstein’s monster feeling of being marked as different, misunderstood, outcast and reviled.  I can remember being cruelly teased because of my vocabulary-- all those big words-- because I was constantly reading, because I knew the answer, and everyone else knew that I did, even if I managed to sit on my hand.  My gifted kids all tell me they’ve been bullied, humiliated for being able to do things others don’t find so easy, that they have earned the ire of teachers who found their curiosity rude, rebellious, and infuriating.  And at the very same time that they are passed over, as if they are hogging the limelight and keeping others from having an opportunity to speak, they are objectified,  made to feel like freaks.  Chris told me his favourite movie was The Elephant Man, that he felt like Joseph Merrick, an object of curiosity, isolated from others by his difference, his giftedness. 


    How do you transform giftedness from a burden into a treasure?  The key is community.  You have to find a place where your gifts are honoured, where you are honoured, and where difference is accepted.  For me, this came only in university, when all of a sudden people in class looked to me for my opinion, instead of groaning when I raised my hand, where everyone was a strong and confident individualist.  Which brings us back to Oscar Wilde, who venerated the free intellect, the life of passionate feeling, subjecting all that is conventional, pat, and smug to questioning.  There it is, I say to my grade 9 students.  It may be a difficult life, but it is an examined life, it is a life overflowing with richly lived and closely analysed experiences.  And that’s the gift in being gifted.  You can live richly, and understand deeply. 




    The Triumph of the Will

    "An act that produces effective surprise this I take as the hallmark of a creative enterprise." - Jerome Bruner As we plan next year, our first integrative project will be "The Triumph of the Will," built around the C.O.C.'s forthcoming production of Puccini's Tosca. Such key historical concepts as positive and negative liberty, and such psychological topics as personal identity are beautifully explored in the music and book of this most accessible work. We will be able to take advantage of a set of educational workshops covering elements from fight choreography to costume design with artists of the company. Instead of a single field trip to a baffling performance, our students will find relevance and challenge. Other integrative projects for next year will draw connections between martial arts and moral education, the replacement of mythological questions with proto-scientific ones, the tension between religious and scientific frameworks, the enormous impact of geography on culture, the critical paradox of Enlightenment thought, which promoted new and inspiring ideas of liberty at the same time as it supported the imperialist mandate. A study of the Protestant legacy will focus on utopias and dystopias, and some very contemporary expressions of these ideas. These are not only academic integrations, enriching the students' intellectual life. They will give rise to trips and vivid experiences, the creation of artistic, scientific, research and collaborative work. The students will continue to be drawn together by much more than the accident of attending the same class in the same school; they will share in experiences which awaken their curiosity and join them in shared conversation, the heart of learning and knowing. ...

    Revenge Remains Unknown

    The cultural riches of Toronto inspired us to experiment with museum based education. Too often schools hesitate to expose students to "high culture", fearing both the charge of elitism and the failure of engagement. Our experience at The Dragon contradicts this: properly prepared, exposed to a properly integrated thematic unit of study, students become a knowledgeable audience for grand opera and its impact on the other arts, including film. Opera is not just the music or the singing, it's theatre, it includes dance and design, it's rich in history. We prepare for our attendance at an opera by examining not only the music, the story, the production values, by making use of the excellent workshops and educational support offered by the world-class companies which our city hosts, but delving into the political, historical, literary and social background. We took advantage of Opera Atelier's production of Mozart's Magic Flute to construct a whole school thematic unit of study of Mozart and the intellectual and historical sources of his great opera, "Revenge Remains Unknown". We have all been impressed by the seriousness with which our students have considered these questions, and by their commitment to participating in the special Opera Atelier workshop, and their enjoyment and understanding of a splendid production of The Magic Flute. "When I first heard bout the idea, I was not thrilled. I have never liked operatic CDs, and thus, I was not inclined to want to go. As we studied and then went to see it, however, I became more and more interested. This experience has opened my eyes to opera." --Alex, grade 10 "I didn't think it would mean much to me, but it was so colourful and really funny, and the music was amazing." - Jake, grade 11 "Now I get what people are going on about." - Eli, grade 12 ...

    Dressed in a Little Brief Authority

    "Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus, Another thing to fall." At The Dragon, we end every year with a whole school, full-length, full-scale production of a play by William Shakespeare. Shakespeare's concerns are timeless. And at the same time you get a real window into a critical moment of western history. His characters are complex and challenging. He's been translated and performed all over the world, for centuries. And if you take a student-centred approach to the script (and treat it like a script, not a holy book) there's room for cultural and political diversity. So, we have set The Comedy of Errors in Jakarta, accompanied by a student gamelan orchestra, with the generous aid of The Indonesian Consulate and the teaching of Andrew Timur. The students are invited to a limitless imaginative exploration. And the proof is in the pudding: each year we mount a wonderful production, and the experience of saying Shakespeare, of knowing his words by heart, stays with them for a lifetime. This past year, the students selected Measure for Measure. This, after all, is a play filled with ambition, darkness, political intrigue, sex, surveillance, and revenge. The students helped to edit it to a manageable length, following an honourable production tradition. They chose the setting (a sixties Cold War country threatened by a coup d'etat, worthy of Le Carre). They designed the lighting, and manned the lighting booth. They created an eerie soundscape, including staging the seduction scenes as flamenco-inspired dances, classical chamber music for the politicos and garage band rock for the rebellious young people, and brought it in on cue. They memorized, and passionately enacted, thousands of lines. They designed and made the costumes. They ran the backstage. They had all the help they needed: a literary scholar and historian, a flamenco artist, professional stage choreographer, director and tech crew, professional makeup and textile artists. ...

    Where We Live

    "The aims of schools are to enable children to do something about creating a better, more humane, more equitable society." - Eliot Eisner The Dragon is truly a community, which means that we share ideas and activities in meaningful rather than accidental ways. The life of the school grows out of the carefully constructed life in the school. This begins with its small size. Here, you know everyone, and everyone knows you. The relationship between students and teachers is not merely formal, nor dependent on the accidents of who teaches you what. The school itself is a living entity of which each person is a crucial part. "The Dragon is a family," students say. "Our shared experience of the school is a glue." "There are no cliques, or maybe the whole school is a clique, teachers and kids together." These factors make it possible to construct and richly execute integrative, whole school projects. Guest teachers come for an hour (to talk about a career in writing or academia, in chemistry or in dance) or over the course of weeks to introduce and oversee a major production. All of these projects have important political and social implications' they reflect and help us to understand the larger issues of the world outside school, which all our students must fully enter. As a result, The Dragon is marked by the passionate sharing of ideas, by learning through experience, from both our successes and our failures. We build a spirit of free communication. "We all really get into the big projects. Everyone's energy is up, everything you do seems really important. We work incredibly hard, but it doesn't feel like work. And when it's over we know so much, but we don't feel like we were studying. We were just doing." ...


    Jeff: Before The Dragon, I felt that I wasn't being challenged enough, or growing as a person as I wanted to. Mike: They bring the subjects to life and make you want to learn. Jeff: They challenge us, and make us think for ourselves. The skills are transferable. We don't just get what we're studying, but also how to examine, understand and fully appreciate anything. Mike: Even the museum trips, you bring back what you saw to the school and it incorporates directly into what you're learning. Jeff: Like when we were reading Macbeth, going and visiting an actual director helped deepen our understanding. In Ancient Art and Architecture, going to the ROM created a concrete image of what we were learning, so it goes beyond simple textbook definitions. We can actually see and relate to what we are being taught. Mike: Being a student at the Dragon definitely sky-rockets you into becoming an intellectual being. The classes are all integrated, they all go hand in hand. Jeff: In drama, we were reading Doctor Faustus and talking about the Faustian bargain, which came up again with Macbeth, but also, simultaneously, in English and Philosophy, that concept of transgression became dominant. Mike: I think that the table seating creates a much better environment. There isn't any pecking order for seating arrangements, the "cool" kids can't sit at the back of the class, and kids can't be judged based on where they sit. Jeff: When we have everyone close together around one or two tables, it makes things naturally progress towards discussion. ...


    My former high school focused on the achievement of high grades. The educational mentality was mechanical, with very little emphasis on creative participation. It relied heavily on extrinsic motivators at the detriment of more intrinsic ones. I found myself stressed about maintaining the status of an accomplished student. I was unmotivated to work, because the required tasks seemed to lack relevance, and I was more inclined to feign effort, since my primary concern was image-management. When I first visited The Dragon, I was taken by the simultaneously relaxed and rigorous atmosphere of the school. The material was significantly more advanced than what I was accustomed to (certainly on a conceptual level), and there was a genuine attempt to provoke insight in each student. At The Dragon, I became more productive and attentive to my own learning. Remarkably, I had stopped thinking about grades altogether, even though I was working considerably harder. I soon made the shift from being product-oriented to being process-oriented and intrinsically motivated. I was encouraged to be creative, to take risks, and to use an assignment as an opportunity for introspection. Many of my essays became pivotal stepping-stones toward greater confidence. At times, I experienced a transformational insight that led to new ways of thinking and an intense episode of personal growth. Although I was definitely being pushed to develop intellectually, I also matured socially and emotionally. Once at U of T, I found myself more than equipped to handle the work-load and subject material. In most cases, it was not as challenging. I continue to strive for personal relevance in my work at university, so as to recreate the style of learning I was introduced to at the Dragon. The Dragon has also provided me with an encompassing academic framework that I can use to situate new concepts. The rich and integrated curriculum that the school promotes makes learning more enjoyable. ...


    When I came to visit The Dragon, I sat in on a literature class. I was impressed with the sheer volume and the depth of learning, and in fact I felt that I learnt more in a day at Dragon than in a week at my former school. The Dragon is full of conversation. There is a constant dynamic flow of knowledge and opinion, among the faculty as well as between students and teachers. Whenever any two teachers are in a room together a fascinating conversation is sure to take place. This is not just true of the faculty but the students as well. Every student at the school has been taught to actively engage with society, using their newly trained intellects. Before I came to The Dragon, I had never had an overwhelmingly positive experience of education. I think I grew a lot emotionally at The Dragon. I have a whole new way of thinking about things, putting things in a framework, that I couldn't have conceived of before. My way of evaluating what it means to be a human being has shifted. I also feel much more capable of actually achieving my goals, realizing those values. The Dragon has provided me with a template of what intellectual life should be like. I've gone to university with a set of skills for reading and writing and thinking that a lot of students don't have. The readings seem light. The essays seem ridiculously little. I am doing really well, and not panicking. The interpersonal skills developed at The Dragon allowed me to survive the triple room in residence without any major conflicts, a task which I certainly would not have considered myself up to before. . Why do I come back to visit so often? I've never visited any of my other schools. It's like coming home to be revitalized. Our shared experience of the Dragon is a glue. Whenever I come back and leave again, I feel energized to renew all my efforts at being a human being. ...

    Beyond Graduation

    The Dragon began in 2000. We've had 20 graduates so far. They've all been admitted to all the universities they applied to, over half of them with scholarships. They're studying everything from Studio Arts to Physics. And they're all doing really well. In conversations with parents of prospective students, I hear again and again, "He's doing well enough, but he's so bored at school." Or, "She's just not motivated. I know she could do so much better." When they come to meet with us, they remark on our warmth and sense of community. "We certainly were able to get a feel for the passion everyone has for teaching and learning (even while playing cards, one could feel the camaraderie)." They almost always say, "I wish I could have gone to a school like this." When their children have enrolled they tell us: "Max was late this morning because he and his dad were so absorbed in an intense discussion about the gospels, their accuracy, the sociopolitical roots of Christianity, and the alleged divinity of Jesus. Wow! Our jaws are bruised from hitting the floor so much. Keep up the great work." "The Dragon and John (Vervaeke) have had an impact on that young man that will last him a lifetime. You have changed his life." "I can't begin to tell you what The Dragon has meant to me. Your belief in Michael and the constant support and love you gave to him helped him to know what a wonderful person he is. He has truly flowered under your care from a lost soul into a strong and thoughtful human being - a whole person. Thank you will never be enough." Talking together to gather their reflections for these pages, our graduates articulated everything that is most important to The Dragon's vision: intellectual richness, the Socratic method, mining the riches of Toronto's cultural institutions, that small is much better, the integration of learning across the curriculum, the moral purpose of education. The best testimonial is what our graduates have to say for themselves. ...

    In the News


    April 10, 2014 - OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET

    On Wednesday, April 16th, Dragons will be leaving the planet and heading out on a Mission to Mars. ...

    April 3, 2014 - Dragons at SPUR Festival

    Dragon senior students are thrilled to be part of the inaugural SPUR Young Scholars Day, Friday, April 4th at University College. ...


    • Advanced Placement Canada (AP) Associations

    Social Feeds

    Get more info

    Contact Name
    Meg Fox, Ph.D.

    Phone Number:
    click to view number

    logo Get more information on The Dragon Academy     Request a package   Website