Champion of hands-on science given national teaching award


"Early elementary students love science, but by Grade 11 or 12, they often hate it," says David Blades. But the University of Victoria professor of science education and curriculum theory is on a mission to change that by teaching teachers to get science off the page and put it back into their students’ hands.

This month, in recognition of his exceptional teaching and education leadership, Blades was awarded a 2016 3M National Teaching Fellowship.

The way scientists make discoveries and share them with their colleagues inspired Blades to create the Explore-Discuss-Understand model, a hands-on approach to learning science that Blades embodies in his teaching. He takes this a step further, asking future teachers to do more than teach students science concepts by relating their lessons to the students' roles as citizens.

UVic-produced video of Dr. Blades commenting on teaching science to school children:

"Science education should focus on our responsibility to each other and to nature, rather than on economic or political competition,” he says. "Every single person in society needs to understand what science is, what it can and can't do for us and how it can help us engage in topics that are relevant to our daily lives."

The focus of his current work is on the role of aesthetics in science education and changes to the current school science curriculum. It dates back to the mid-20th century and, he says, fails to engage students who are not interested in a science career. Blades advises the BC Ministry of Education and other governments across Canada about new, more relevant curricula based on ethics, science literacy and community-focused teaching.

“Professor Blades has shown outstanding educational leadership, both at the University of Victoria and across Canada, providing teachers with the tools they need to nurture a more scientifically literate generation,” says UVic president Jamie Cassels, himself a former recipient of the national award.

Blades teaches his own students how to make science relevant in their future classrooms. His students explain why they should teach the lessons they plan, saying: "If you can't explain a lesson's importance, then you shouldn't teach it. You need to connect it to life."

Blades is UVic’s 11th recipient to be awarded the 3M National Teaching Fellowship which was established in 1986 through the generosity of 3M Canada and the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.

Past recipients include Prof. Jin-Sun Yoon (Child and Youth Care), 2015, Dr. A.R. (Elango) Elangovan (Gustavson School of Business), 2012, Dr. Gweneth Doane (Nursing), 2006, Prof. Jamie Cassels (Law), 2002, Dr. Marty Wall (Psychology), 2001, Dr. Aaron Devor (Sociology), 2000, Dr. David Berry (Chemistry), 2000, Dr. Thomas Cleary (English), 1994, Dr. Elizabeth Tumasonis (History in Art), 1992, Dr. Andy Farquharson (Social Work), 1986.
Watch David Blades’ Faces of Research video on YouTube.

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Media contacts

David Blades (Education, Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction) at

Suzanne Ahearne (University Communications + Marketing) at 250-721-6139 or

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Keywords: champion, handson, science, given, national, teaching, award, student life

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