Learning the Lessons of the 1960s

Jade Sinskul '20

First Year Seminar students in Beth Quinn’s class explore the Woodstock era at the Museum at Bethel Woods.

November 20, 2019—Associate Professor of Psychology Elizabeth Quinn wanted to give her First Year Seminar (FYS) students a different kind of experience.

“I thought a trip to the Museum at Bethel Woods, home of the Woodstock Festival, would allow the students to contemplate the experiences of rising adults in the 1960s—to consider the political climate, counterculture, and social zeitgeist during the Vietnam War era,” said Quinn. The group was accompanied on the trip by Associate Professor of English and Jewish Studies Coordinator Josh Kotzin and the members of his FYS class. 


Like all FYS courses, Quinn’s class, “You Learn by Living: Showing Up for Your Life,” focuses on academic skills development to ensure that every student experiences an expansive approach to learning. Quinn’s curriculum relies on examining different forms of art, particularly those that have a connection to the Hudson Valley, in order to teach students complicated life lessons such as success, failure, hopes, dreams, and regrets. During the semester, Quinn’s students read Eleanor Roosevelt’s You Learn by LivingLegends and Lore of Sleepy Hollow and the Hudson Valley by Jonathan Kruk, and screened movies that were filmed in the Hudson Valley, such as Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding, A Quiet Place, and Nobody’s Fool, to develop their reading, writing, and critical-thinking skills.

By adding a field trip to the class, Quinn aimed to provide her students with a firsthand experience that could not necessarily be taught in the classroom. And this year is a particularly opportune time to visit the site of Woodstock. 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the iconic festival (in fact, Marist’s Hudson River Valley Institute hosted a conference on Woodstock earlier in the summer), and her students were able to view and interact with the special exhibition presented by the Museum at Bethel Woods, “We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival.”

During the trip, students were immersed in the culture of the 1960s, a time when young people had a significant influence on the political climate. The exhibition also showed—through photographs, artifacts, and reference materials—that the aspiration for a peaceful future is alive in young people today as well. The visit had a significant impact on Quinn’s students. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Luca Miller ’23. “Learning about the positivity and influence that the 1960s had on a generation was remarkable, as was being able to see all of that at the museum.”

Quinn felt the trip was eye-opening for her students in that it allowed them to draw some parallels between their 1960s counterparts and themselves. “The whole exhibit portrayed the influence college students in 1969 had on the political process and raised our students’ awareness about the effects of political activism. Perhaps our students will also be motivated to influence future generations.”

Photos: Center: Beth Quinn Bottom: Grace Ringwood ’23, at The Museum at Bethel Woods

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