Durkin Park Elementary: Gina Adamik & Niema Qureshi, Grades 3-5


What do you want to Illuminate?

“We focused on the concept of Illumination by exploring it from a literal sense of how things light up but also the idea of highlighting or illuminating aspects of our personalities. We wanted the students to use the collaboration as an opportunity to learn the basics of how artificial light as well as bioluminescent light is created, and then use that research to draw self-portraits that illuminate aspects of themselves.”

—Durkin Park, 3rd–5th grade Teacher, Gina Adamik, and Teaching Artist, Niema Qureshi.

We built a creative practice vocabulary list to think like artists.

Fireflies and Circuits

The students created fireflies out of Play-Doh and learned how to illuminate them using microelectronics (test leads, LEDs, low voltage AA battery packs, etc.).Through discussion about conductive materials and insulators and experimentation with the created objects, students learned how basic circuits work.



Imaginary Creatures

Students then created an illuminated imaginary creature. They were asked why their creature lights up and made connections with bioluminescence in nature. 

The Shift to Remote Learning

We’d planned to continue exploring the idea of Illumination during remote learning. But we realized that the students would probably benefit more from using our art-making time as a way to express how they were feeling given all the uncertainty in their lives.  

We talked about shapes and patterns and used that language as a way to make careful observations of our home learning environments. We drew sea creatures together and talked about different types of lines and how these lines made different types of patterns and textures. We also discussed how we felt when we made marks on our paper and students said making certain shapes made them feel either happy or relaxed. 

We concluded our collaboration by looking at the work of the Chinese artist Xu Bing. We explored the idea that you could express yourself using symbols, like pictograms and emojis.

“Sometimes I find it hard to find the right words to express myself but using pictures was much easier.”

—Vincente, Student, Durkin Park Elementary School