Wednesday, January 8, 2020

For Immediate Release

John Papadonis Receives Distinguished
Friend of Science Award from MAST

Quincy, MA – On December 13th, 2019, longtime partner of the Wade Institute for Science Education John Papadonis was honored with the Russell P. Stanhope Distinguished Friend of Science Award from the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers. John has had a full career in science education, ranging from working as an after school aide to leading a college science education program and including many years of leadership in informal science education. His fascination for science has been unwavering since his youth, and that passion has shown through as a driving force throughout his exceptional career as a  science educator. “What I’d like to be remembered for the most is trying to get people excited about science,” says John. “My mentors taught me that all kids love science and that it truly is a magical experience.”

When John was in middle school, his parents encouraged his budding interest in science by sending him to the Museum of Science’s Science Explorers program on Saturdays. Through those weekend trips to the museum, he was inspired by professional educators like author and science magician, Larry White. To this day, John credits Larry’s mentoring as one of his main reasons for pursuing a career in science. John had the opportunity to learn from Larry again in high school when he began working as an after school aide at the Needham Science Center. There he assisted with program preparation for teacher trainings and cared for the live animals on-site. Working alongside his mentor and science magician role-model, he developed skills and learned the tricks of the trade that would lead him to success in the science education field.

In addition to meeting his mentor at a young age, John was family friends with Charles Wyckoff, a world renowned photographic innovator at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). John visited Wyckoff at his MIT lab, where he witnessed the development of strobe light photography and met the inventor of the strobe light, Harold Edgerton. John was fascinated by the innovative technology and sought opportunities to learn more about science.

John went on to earn an undergraduate degree in marine science and expanded his experience as a science educator by working at the New England Aquarium (NEAq). Over the course of twenty-six years, he held a variety of roles at the aquarium. He led tours, gave public presentations, designed exhibits, and supported educators through the Teacher Resource Center. In fact, John’s electric eel exhibit is still a feature of the aquarium today!

In 1972, John began teaching middle school science in Burlington, MA. He inspired students by presenting what he calls “science magic,” phenomena-based activities that wow people and get them excited about science.  John drew on his skills and experience with informal education to help develop Burlington Public School’s Burlington Science Center, and in 1984 he became its first director. That same year, John was approached with an opportunity for collaboration by Emily V. Wade, founder of the Wade Institute for Science Education (then the Museum Institute for Teaching Science, or MITS, Inc.). The proposed partnership was to work with MITS and the Needham Science Center to pilot an inquiry-based, STEM-focused Summer Professional Development Institute for classroom teachers. The successful institute model is still used to this day, thanks to the dedication and collaboration of leaders like John.

John now spends his days sharing his knowledge by teaching and mentoring pre-service educators in the Cambridge College Science Education Program. As Chair of the program, John helps educators obtain their initial licensure and progress their professional teaching careers. He encourages them to participate in professional development opportunities beyond college as a means of enhancing their content knowledge and teaching methods and maintaining their licensure.

With his commitment to science education serving as a road map to a successful career in the field, John was honored by the Massachusetts Association of Science Teachers on December 13th, 2019, with the Russell P. Stanhope Distinguished Friend of Science Award. The award recognizes individuals who work with Massachusetts science educators, who are leaders in the field, and who strive to work collaboratively in their missions. The staff at the Wade Institute for Science Education are honored to have worked with John over so many years and appreciate his support in our collaborative efforts to promote excellence in teacher education. We congratulate him on the award and are inspired to know that after such a fascinating and distinguished career, he still remains wowed by science magic.


The Wade Institute for Science Education specializes in providing inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on, science, technology and engineering professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators.  For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.

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