An Open Letter to Science Educators

Dear colleagues in science education,

Greetings from Kerry Magruder, Curator, and from Brent Purkaple, Education Coordinator, of the History of Science Collections at the University of Oklahoma Libraries.

We are writing to invite you to be involved in Galileo’s World over the next two years by bringing students through an activity-based tour of the Galileo’s World exhibition at the OU Library, or by giving us feedback on the educational resources we are creating based on the exhibit materials.  Prominent subject areas include astronomy, physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering and the life sciences, and others, and we emphasize the connections between them, through cross-cutting concepts that connect science with the fine arts, music, literature and other humanities.

We’d be glad to meet with educators sometime this summer or early fall to offer a preview of the books and instruments on display, the related activities, and the educational resources we have been developing.  There are absolutely no fees involved for you or your students to visit the exhibit or to use the educational resources.  Our days and hours are flexible, worked out on a case-by-case basis.  We’re also looking for adults willing to train to help us establish a docent program, so if you know of any folks willing to volunteer with solid experience in education and/or science, please invite them to get in touch with us as well.

As you may already know, the Galileo’s World exhibition launched a year ago to celebrate OU’s 125th anniversary, and featured more than 350 rare books displayed in 7 different locations, organized into more than 20 galleries, many of which emphasized astronomy.  You can scan an overview of the exhibit on my professional blog here:
Or dive in to the exhibit website here:
Or follow our educational efforts here:

The programs for Galileo’s World are now over, but last year they included many science and astronomy-related events — from skywatches led by the Lunar Sooners, to lectures by various scientists and historians of science, including several JPL scientists, the director of the Museo Galileo in Florence, and the Director of the Vatican Observatory. As the other locations close and the books from all the locations come back to our vaults, we have decided to go ahead with a 2-year reprise of the exhibition in the library.  So this reprise exhibit is what we would be able to show your students this coming year.

With every class tour, we integrate a few 2-minute activities that relate the “world of the books” to the “world of the students,” so before any tour we would discuss which activities would be most appropriate for your students.  For example, since the reprise exhibit will include all the greatest star atlases, for an astronomy or general science class we might focus on constellations or the tools of observational astronomy (using a class set of celestial globes, armillary spheres, or astrolabes, for example).  For a physics class, we might replicate Galileo’s experiments on falling bodies using our functional reconstruction of his inclined plane.  Or, here are a few examples of the educational resources we’ve been making:

As mentioned above, Brent Purkaple is coordinating our educational engagement.  Brent is a former middle school teacher and now a PhD student in the History of Science program here at OU.  Along with the Educator for the Fred Jones Jr Museum of Art, Brent took some of our exhibit-based activities in astronomy to over 600 students in area public 3rd, 4th and 5th grades last semester.  We expect to continue that program this coming year.

So let us know if you are interested in one or more tours this coming school year, and also in getting together sometime for a personal preview. Also, feel free to share this post with any other science educators in the area who might be interested in meeting with us or bringing their students for a tour.

Kerry Magruder and Brent Purkaple

Posted in Exhibit-based learning, OU Lynx General Information | 2 Comments

Summertime in Galileo’s World


Some children are getting ready to watch an introductory video to the exhibit in our theater.

The summer is a great time for visitors of all ages to experience Galileo’s World in Bizzell Memorial Library. Visitors may drop by unannounced and do a self-guided tour through the exhibit, enjoying the rare books on display as well as the various hands-on activities integrated into the exhibit. There are also iPads available for visitors which will guide individuals through a book-by-book tour of the exhibit.


One of the educators leads a group through an activity with the inclined plane replica.

One of the educators leads a group through an activity with the inclined plane replica.

The summer is also a great time for camps to come to the exhibit. Over the past few weeks we have had multiple K-12 STEM Camps come to the exhibit as well as an architecture camp. Both groups were able to schedule their tours in advance, and as a result we were able to highlight the books from the exhibit that best fit with their particular emphases as well as select key activities that would enrich their experience.


Students explored the way Galileo's telescope worked through a lens activity.

Students explore the way Galileo’s telescope worked through a lens activity.

We had a lot of fun showing the students some of the treasures from the History of Science Collections as well as doing some of the hands-on activities with them.

If you are involved with school-aged children over the summer and are interested in scheduling a visit, contact Barbara Niccum ( We’ll work with you to select the emphasis and material that will best fit your group.

Docents are able to utilize the classroom beside the exhibit hall for groups requesting more detail on a particular topic. In this photo one of the educators explains the significance of Galileo's published observations of the moon.

Docents are able to utilize the classroom beside the exhibit hall for groups requesting more detail on a particular topic. In this photo one of the educators explains the significance of Galileo’s published observations of the moon.

Posted in K-12 Education, News and Events, OU Lynx General Information, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Calling all Educators

History of Science Collections Curator, Dr. Kerry Magruder, discusses some books on display.

History of Science Collections Curator, Dr. Kerry Magruder, discusses some of the books on display.

A new year provides an excellent opportunity to pause and reflect. The vision of the OU Academy of the Lynx is multifaceted. We create Open Educational Resources. We give educational tours related to our current exhibits. We also curate other educational resources around the internet that currently exist and are related to our exhibits (we don’t want to recreate the wheel!). All of this is supports the educational outreach of the exhibits in the History of Science Collections.

This past Fall with the launch of Galileo’s World we have progressed in each of these areas. In case you haven’t seen our OERs page at the top you are going to want to be sure and check it out. There is much that has been created. And in case you haven’t scheduled a guided tour for your students, you should consider doing this as well. We will work with you to tailor your tour to your own teaching needs. 

Font page of a Learning Leaflet.

Front page of a Learning Leaflet.

But in doing all this there is another vital component: Collaboration. We want to collaborate with educators. We have access to rare books and can explain their content. But it’s the educators who are the true experts on what is useful. They know what will work in their classrooms, what their students will enjoy, and what will inspire and transform imaginations. And chances are, what is useful for one educator will also be useful for another.

There are many stories that could be told from the history of science. But not all of them are equally helpful. Educators can give us a great insight into which ones are beneficial.

Are you an educator willing to work with us to increase the usefulness of our exhibits in a variety of educational contexts? We would love feedback on any of these questions:

  • Do you currently use the history of science in your teaching? If so, how?
  • Does our current exhibit cover topics that are useful to you in your teaching? How so?
  • Are there specific areas that you wish we would develop? What are they?
  • What can we do to increase the impact of our exhibit and all its physical and digital components?

Some of you have already expressed interest in working with us. Thank you! But, we also want to invite all interested educators into collaboration with us. What would be useful for you?

Have comments or suggestions? Want to join in the development? Email us at or reach me directly at

The OU Academy of the Lynx exists to collaborate with educators in exhibit-based learning.

Posted in Educational Development, News and Events, OU Lynx General Information | Tagged | Leave a comment