Summer of Love provides insights into social studies topics including cultural movements and their impact on American history, California and the lure of the West, the Sixties and idealism, and more. You can use part or all of the film, or delve into the rich resources available on this Web site, including a streaming version of the program, to learn more, either in a classroom or on your own.
The following activities are grouped into four categories: history, culture, geography, and society. You can also read a few helpful hints for completing the activities.
The Summer of Love wasn't just an unforgettable experience for those who participated in it; it also made a deep impression -- sometimes positive, sometimes negative -- on many other Americans.
Find at least two persons who are old enough to remember 1967 and interview them about their memories about the Summer of Love in particular and the hippie counterculture in general. Your questions could include: How old were you then? Where were you living, and what were you doing? How did you hear about the events in San Francisco (if at all), and what was your reaction at the time? Were your impressions of the hippies positive, negative, or some combination of the two -- and do you now think those impressions were justified? If someone had offered you a ride to San Francisco to join the hippies that summer, how might you have responded?
Take detailed notes of your interviews, including direct quotations of any statements you find particularly striking. Then compare your notes with those of your classmates and see if any general themes run through your findings. For example, did most of the interviewees have similar attitudes toward the Summer of Love, or did their attitudes depend heavily on their age in 1967 or some other factor?
Close by discussing what this exercise has taught you about the Summer of Love: do the events of that summer appear more important, or less important, than they did when you viewed the film?
A dream fulfilled, or forgotten?
In a famous story by Washington Irving, a man named Rip Van Winkle falls asleep for 20 years and awakes to a very different world. Imagine that one of the participants in the Summer of Love fell asleep that summer and didn't awake until 2007; what would he or she think of life in the United States today? Have the hopes and ideals of that summer been fulfilled, or is it as though the Summer of Love never happened? Write a 500-word essay this "Rip Van Hippie" might have written for a local newspaper describing what has, and what has not, changed since 1967. Have volunteers read their essays to the class.
The hippie look.
As the film and these pages from The San Francisco Oracle show, hippies had a distinctive style when it came to clothes, music, graphic art, and even language. Hold a class contest to see who can re-create the hippie look most convincingly.
Divide the class into groups and have each group stage a brief skit in which hippies, dressed in appropriate clothes and listening to appropriate music, discuss some topic of interest to participants in the Summer of Love. To obtain materials from the hippie era, groups should look in stores that sell used clothing, records, magazines, and so on. (They might also want to check through their family attics.)
Have the rest of the class rate each group's performance and accuracy on a scale of 1 to 10 and then vote to determine the winner of the contest.
The view from Haight -- and from home.
To explore how the events surrounding the Summer of Love may have seemed to the participants, as well as to their friends and family members back home, divide the class into groups of two students each. One member of each group should imagine that she or he is in San Francisco for the Summer of Love and should write a letter to a friend or family member describing one of the key moments in the "year of the hippie." The other member of the group should write a letter in reply, expressing her or his opinion of the activity described in the first letter. (Since the Summer of Love attracted widespread media attention, you may want to imagine that the friend or family member has seen on television, or read about in the newspaper, the event described in the participant's letter.)
Try to make the letters as realistic as possible: the participant's letter should provide concrete details of what happened and how it felt to be there that day, for example, while the friend or family member's letter should reflect that person's beliefs as well as her or his relationship with the participant.
When you are done, have volunteer teams read their letters to the class. What differences do you see among the participants' letters, and among the letters from back home? What kinds of friends and family members were most (or least) likely to be supportive of what the participants were doing?
California and the American dream.
Ask students what words or images first come to mind when they think of California, and write their answers on the board. Do many of the answers describe a place of opportunity, prosperity, and freedom -- not to mention great weather? Explain that long before the Summer of Love, California symbolized these qualities for many Americans, as well as for many residents of other countries.
Have students work in small groups to select and then research a topic related to why so many people have been attracted to California over the years. Possible topics include the gold rush of 1849, the large-scale Asian immigration during the 1800s, the "Okies" and others who migrated to California during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, the growth of the film industry in Hollywood, and the migration to California and other Sun Belt states after World War II.
Each group should present its findings to the class in the form of a brief oral report. Then, using the information from these presentations, discuss the following questions as a class: How was the Summer of Love similar to, and different from, previous migrations to California? What made California an appropriate location for the Summer of Love? Do you think California's positive image among Americans helped attract people to the Summer of Love?
Searching for a better world.
The "year of the hippie" ended in October 1967 with a public mock funeral to mark the "death of the hippie." In the years following the Summer of Love, young people in other parts of the world also joined in movements to change society, yet failed to achieve immediate success. To find out about some of these movements, divide the class into four groups and assign each group one of the following: (1) the Paris riots of 1968, (2) the "Prague Spring" of 1968, (3) the Jonestown settlement in Guyana, and (4) the 1989 protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Each group should find out the origins and goals of the movement, the tactics it used, how long the movement lasted, and its outcome. Then, using this information, each group should present a brief oral report to the class comparing and contrasting its assigned movement with the Summer of Love.
When the reports are complete, discuss as a class whether you would regard any of these movements as a success and what lessons might be drawn from them.
A Generation Y rebellion?
Take the online poll on whether you would have gone to San Francisco for the Summer of Love. If another Summer of Love were to take place in San Francisco this year, how would it compare to the original? More specifically, what sorts of events, beliefs, expectations, and so on would young people be rebelling against? How might they conduct that rebellion? What kinds of ideas would they have for creating a better world?
Address these questions by forming small groups and working together to create mock newspaper articles or radio news reports describing this hypothetical new Summer of Love. Include "factual" descriptions of the event as well as commentary from participants and non-participants.
Memorial to a dream.
Both participants and historians have a variety of views on the Summer of Love and its legacy today. To express your own view, imagine that the city of San Francisco is sponsoring a contest to design a memorial to the Summer of Love that would be built in Haight-Ashbury. Working with a partner, design your own proposed memorial. It can focus on the ideals behind the Summer of Love, its actual outcome, its relevance to today's society, or some related topic. It can take any form you choose (monument, sculpture, sidewalk design, audio or video display, etc.) and can include words as well as images.
Groups should prepare a sketch of their proposed memorial and then present their proposal to the class. When all presentations are finished, the class should vote on its favorite.
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