Associate Professor of Education

Dr. Leon Walls started his career as an electrical engineer, earned a Master’s degree in Education from Marquette University, and also taught middle school science in the Milwaukee Public Schools district. It was in his doctoral program in Geoenvironmental Science Education at Purdue University that Dr. Walls engaged in nature of science (NOS) learning and discussions. Using this research framework, he began exploring how very young children of color conceive of and understand the practice of science and the role of scientists. Research strongly suggests that possessing an accurate understanding of NOS is an important factor in determining whether students achieve science literacy.

In hopes of reversing inequity in science classrooms, Walls challenges the students in his UVM classes to think about the language and techniques they use to teach science and how to relate all children in discussions.

In his widely referenced study, “Third Grade African American Students’ Views of the Nature of Science,” Walls worked with a sample of African American third grade children in an effort to make science equitable for all students. The study advocated for the use of constant monitoring of student views to construct inquiry-based science lessons and increased research about students of color.

Research and/or Creative Works

UVM Gund Institute for Environment Catalyst Award exploring the water crisis and environmental racism in Jackson, Mississippi. Dr. Walls and Dr. Julia Perdrial partner with scholars at Jackson State University (JSU) to design and implement a culturally relevant teacher education program and collect preliminary data on the water crisis’ impacts on community, teachers, and the learning of Black children. The group will prioritize relationship-building and community feedback, and their ultimate goal is to advance scholarship in STEM education, racism and climate change, and build towards larger, nationally funded research to address these issues. The project also seeks to provide tools and resources for educators in cities affected by water crises in the future. Collaborators include: Chandar Lewis (JSU), Jacqueline Jackson (JSU), Deidre Wheaton (JSU), Regina Toolin (UVM CESS), Donna Rizzo (UVM CEMS), and Andrew Cassel (UVM CAS).


Please visit Dr. Walls' Google Scholar page for a full listing of publications.

Awards and Recognition

  • Gund Institute for Environment Catalyst Award, University of Vermont (2023)
  • Faculty Fellow, Gund Institute for the Environment, University of Vermont
  • Faculty Resource Network, Scholar-in-Residence New York University (2012)
  • International Network of Teacher Education Institutions, U.S. Delegate Member from UNESCO (2012)
  • Jane and Michael Wilson Doctoral Award in Science Education from Purdue University (2008)
  • Bilsland Strategic Initiatives Fellowship from Purdue University (2008)

Associations and Affiliations

  • Gund Institute for Environment, University of Vermont
  • American Anthropological Association (AAA)
  • Association for Science Teacher Education (ASTE)
  • National Association of Research in Science Teaching (NARST)
  • National Science Teachers Association (NSTA),
  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
  • State Tournament Director of Vermont Science Olympiad
Leon Walls

Areas of Expertise and/or Research

  • Curriculum and Instruction
  • Multiculturalism
  • Race and racism
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  • Teacher education


  • Ph.D. in Geoenvironmental Science Education from Purdue University
  • M.A. in Instructional Leadership from Marquette University
  • B.S. in Electrical Engineering from St. Mary's University, TX


  • (802) 656-2274
Office Location:

532 Waterman

Courses Taught

Laboratory Experience in Inquiry; Laboratory Experience in Literacy; Race and Racism in the U.S.; Science of Sustainability; Teaching Science for Meaning