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The Corner Toolkit  >  Themed activities  >  The Curious Corner  >  A Curious Corner - Children, curiosity and imagination

A Curious Corner - Children, curiosity and imagination

“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind.”
Samuel Johnson

The Odditoreum

From 26 May through to 25 August 2012 The State Library of Queensland hosted The Odditoreum, a travelling exhibition from the Sydney Powerhouse Design Museum.

The Odditoreum was a very unique display featuring a selection of weird and wonderful curiosities from deep within the vaults of the Museum’s collection.

The objects were carefully selected by the Museum for their own peculiarity, creating a display of oddities not normally seen. These objects were transformed by children’s author and illustrator Shaun Tan, who created intriguing stories for each object blurring fact and fantasy.

Tan is the author and illustrator of award-winning books The red tree and The lost thing and his work was recently included in the New York Times’ top 10 list of illustrated children’s books.

Who do you write and illustrate for? is a question often put to Tan. His reply: ‘…anyone who reads and looks. That is, anyone who is curious, who enjoys strangeness, mystery and oddity, who like asking questions and using their imagination….’

For Tan, the strangeness of each object in The Odditoreum is where the trigger for his imagination is drawn. He has turned a short factual description into a chemical reaction of ideas resulting in a very potent and funny mix that will inspire the curiosity of visitors young and old.

The objects in The Odditoreum will be no less intriguing when you discover what they actually are! These include a giant liquorice allsorts shoe, a metal griffin, horse’s teeth, an oversized model of a silkworm moth and many more. Young visitors can also let their imaginations soar by writing their own labels and stories about the weird and wonderful oddities on display.

Curiosity in The Corner

An environment that fosters creativity is one that offers options and the freedom to make choices. Based on the Odditoreum and Shaun Tan’s fantastical alternative narratives to museum objects The Curious Corner is an ideal platform to encourage curious ideas. Removed from the constraints of right answers and correct interpretations The Curious Corner will offer the freedom, and perhaps for parents and carers – permission, to experiment and play with objects and ideas. Rather than focus on the creative processes often associated with arts based learning The Curious Corner will engage children across multiple disciplines providing opportunity for tinkering and thinking and inventing.

Using a palette of objects/scenes/concepts that children are already familiar with we can

Question how we think about things – categorize in different ways.

Build something familiar out of the unfamiliar.

Create something unexpected out of the expected.

Early Years Learning Framework and the Curious Corner

The five Learning Outcomes are designed to capture the integrated and complex learning and development of all children across the birth to five age range. The outcomes are listed below with learning opportunities provided through The Curios Corner:


In early childhood settings children develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, develop attachments and trust those that care for them. As children are developing their sense of identity, they explore different aspects of it (physical, social, emotional, spiritual, cognitive), through their play and their relationships.

When children feel safe, secure and supported they grow in confidence to explore and learn.

A Curious Corner promotes this learning though the following


When educators create environments in which children experience mutually enjoyable, caring and respectful relationships with people and the environment, children respond accordingly. When children participate collaboratively in everyday routines, events and experiences and have opportunities to contribute to decisions, they learn to live interdependently.

A Curious Corner promotes this learning though the following


Wellbeing includes good physical health, feelings of happiness, satisfaction and successful social functioning. It influences the way children interact in their environments. A strong sense of wellbeing provides children with confidence and optimism which maximise their learning potential. It encourages the development of children’s innate exploratory drive, a sense of agency and a desire to interact with responsive others. 

A Curious Corner promotes this learning though the following


Children use processes such as exploration, collaboration and problem solving across all aspects of curriculum. Developing dispositions such as curiosity, persistence and creativity enables children to participate in and gain from learning. Effective learners are also able to transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another and to locate and use resources for learning.

In a supportive active learning environment, children who are confident and involved learners are increasingly able to take responsibility for their own learning, personal regulation and contribution to the social environment. Connections and continuity between learning experiences in different settings make learning more meaningful and increase children’s feelings of belonging.

Children develop understandings of themselves and their world through active, hands-on investigation. A supportive active learning environment encourages children’s engagement in learning which can be recognised as deep concentration and complete focus on what captures their interests.

Active involvement in learning builds children’s understandings of concepts and the creative thinking and inquiry processes that are necessary for lifelong learning. They can challenge and extend their own thinking, and that of others, and create new knowledge in collaborative interactions and negotiations. Children’s active involvement changes what they know, can do, value and transforms their learning.

A Curious Corner promotes this learning though the following


Communication is crucial to belonging, being and becoming. From birth children communicate with others using gestures, sounds, language and assisted communication. They are social beings who are intrinsically motivated to exchange ideas, thoughts, questions and feelings, and to use a range of tools and media, including music, dance and drama, to express themselves, connect with others and extend their learning.

Experiences in early childhood settings build on the range of experiences with language, literacy and numeracy that children have within their families and communities.

Positive attitudes and competencies in literacy and numeracy are essential for children’s successful learning. The foundations for these competencies are built in early childhood.

A Curious Corner promotes this learning though the following

Programming drivers -

Key thematic Drivers: Learning through Play

Play is a context for learning that:

It is essential that commissioned works inspire play based responses from children and invite an aesthetically charged “call to action” through the spectrum of styles of play.

Discovery play (exploring play) enables a child to find out about things: what they are like - their size, shape, texture, colour; how they are made; what she can do with them, for example playing with water or sand.

Physical play (exercise) takes place when a child is actively moving around - running, jumping, climbing, crawling, balancing, swinging, throwing a ball, and so on.

Creative play is when a child expresses her own ideas and feelings to make something which is original, for example, a picture, an animal in modelling dough, a house in building blocks, and so on. A young child is able to express feelings and ideas more easily by painting and drawing than by using words. As the child becomes more skilled with words, she may then be able to write a story, poem or play.

Imaginative play is 'pretend' or fantasy play. The child imagines that she is someone else or an animal such as a rabbit or dog. Children imitate the ways of adults when they play house or play 'shopping'. Attempting to behave like someone else helps the child to understand more clearly the ways other people behave.

Manipulative play involves skilful use of the hands. During manipulative play the hands, eyes and brain are being trained to co-ordinate, that is, to work smoothly together. Babies become increasingly skilful with their hands as they play with rattles, soft toys and other objects. Later on, they benefit from playing with such things as modelling dough.

Social play takes place when children play together. It teaches them to co-operate, to share, and to be honest. It also teaches them that antisocial behaviour, like cheating, leads to isolation and loss of friendship. Children often quarrel and in doing so learn about each other's reactions.


Last updated: 16th July 2013

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