BPL Perspectives: Elinor and Winfield Burks Shine Spotlight on Math and Science at Five Points West Library

Elinor and Winfield Burks at the Wakanda Wheel

Elinor and Winfield Burks have a passion for educating young people about the importance of math and science. Their Science for Kids Ministry has partnered with Kwanzaa Year Round and the Birmingham Public Library for 18 years to offer the Annual Math & Science Day, held July 28 at the Five Points West Regional Branch Library.

A participant tries on some 3-D glasses

For the past four years on Monday afternoons, the Burks have hosted the Ensley Science Club, a free after-school activity for young patrons at the Ensley Branch Library, where the couple have served as longtime volunteers. But it is the Annual Math & Science Day where they have made their biggest impact, attracting dozens of kids and teenagers from across Birmingham who desire to learn more about math and science. This year's Annual Math & Science Day focused on the topic “What Can Movies Teach Us About Science?” with a theme based on lessons young people can learn from science in two recent movie hits, Hidden Figures and Black Panther.

Making take-home crafts

“In the movies, the real science goes over our heads. But we want to focus on what these sciences really look and feel like,” Elinor Burks said. The Math & Science Day program had a “Wakanda Wheel” featuring some of the characters from the movie Black Panther. Elinor Burks is a big fan of the fictional Princess Shuri of Wakanda in Black Panther, who uses advanced technology in the fictional African country to make unique gadgets for her superhero brother. During the event, the Burks partnered with engineers from Alabama Power and other special guests to show a variety of child-friendly, hands-on chemistry and physics experiments that demonstrate the sciences touched on in the movies. One project allowed children to construct a hologram projector. Staff from Home Depot helped families build a craft they got to take home.

Winfield Burks, who helped young people answer math questions, said the goal is to make math and science fun. “Math is cool,” he said.