Let’s Get Feisty

feisty (adj) : tenacious, energetic, spunky; Belligerent; prepared to stand and fight especially in spite of relatively small stature or some other disadvantage (wiktionary.org).


It’s always fun to share photos and stories of family gatherings. With the recent passing of another year I have been reading a number of such stories posted by friends and family at various social networking sites.

One of these stories really stood out as a lesson for me as a curriculum designer so I thought it appropo to share.

A friends’ teenage grandsons purchased a gift for their younger brother that he had been asking for all year. It was a small gift and shaped such that traditional gift packaging would have quickly quashed the element of surprise so they, being teenage boys, decided to get feisty.

On Christmas morning, among the many neatly tied bows and glittering packages, stood a monstrosity of a gift with what appeared to be a ragged football protruding from one side. The teen boys snickered and jabbed one another in the ribs as they pointed their younger brother toward that package, “it’s for you”.

The young boy wasted no time tearing into the gift from his brothers as a crowd of grandparents, aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins looked on.

First came some holiday wrapping paper, followed by that well-worn football which was duct taped to an old heating vent cover that served as one of the sides of the box. Inside that box was a smaller shoebox wrapped tight in masking tape. The boy was unshaken as he requested a pair of scissors. Cutting the shoebox open he gasped and guffawed at the contents. It was a brick, a red brick attached to a brown paper package with several layers of black duct tape.

With an enormous smile on his face the boy cut the tape away from the brick and began working on the brown paper package. Had he finally reached his prize? Not quite. Inside the brown paper package was a paper tube (presumably from a roll of paper towels) wrapped not only in more duct tape but also bound with a layer of baling wire!

The boy’s anticipation was palpable as he looked at his brothers in disbelief, “I need wire cutters”, and one of the older boys handed him a small pair. As he cut each wire he began laughing so hard he was nearly in tears.

Fifteen full minutes had passed since he started opening this present. It didn’t seem that long, not even to the crowd of onlookers who were enjoying every moment of the surprise almost as much as the young boy.

One last obstacle, the paper tube. The boy took the scissors, sliced the tube long ways and spread it apart at the cut…revealing the gift he had so longed for! He squealed with delight and launched himself at his older brothers simultaneously hugging and punching them. The rest of the family clapped and cheered at his success and his delight.

I said I believed there was a lesson in this story for those of us involved in curriculum design so here it is…

  • “Unconventional” (aka “feisty”) is interesting! It’s fun, it captures attention, sparks emotion, and leaves a lasting impression.

An adult wrapping the young boys gift may have never considered the outrageous an stuck with traditional packaging. Yes, the child would still have received the gift he had wanted all year but the impact upon him and the rest of the family members present that day would have been completely different. Perhaps the unwrapping of that gift would have even gone unnoticed except by the giver and the recipient. The teenage boys were feisty and that feistiness is what resulted in one of the most memorable gifts ever given or received in that family.

Of course there are risks in being feisty, but maybe that’s part of the fun! I decided to pursue curriculum design because I am a creative soul and this career allows me all the latitude I need to express my creativity and gives me an opportunity to do so while having a role in the learning process.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to become so mired down in strategic planning and budgeting and all the other necessary details of doing business that I forget how much fun it is to be a curriculum designer. While it may not be appropriate for every lesson, I think we could all stand to take a cue from the teenage boys in this story and get feisty with our design!


Lisa M. Menke is the Associate Dean for Online Instruction at York College of Nebraska. Lisa is an avid fan innovation in learning design and transmedia storytelling. Lisa holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate in  online course development. Lisa and her family live in York, Nebraska.


3 thoughts on “Let’s Get Feisty

  1. As a learner, the lessons that are out of the ordinary are the ones that stay with me. More than just a lesson, it’s an experience. When a lecture or a piece of reading have been long forgotten, those “feisty” moments of learning will be recalled instantly.


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