On a hot, humid Wednesday in July, I tag along with a group of 100 second- and third-grade students on a field trip to the University of California, Los Angeles. The students attend 75th Street Elementary School, located in South Central Los Angeles. I spend a lot of time at this school, conducting research, making friends, and learning. Some teachers thought it would be a good idea for the students to see the campus, life outside the walls of South Central.
More than half of South Central's 60,000 residents live below the federal poverty line; most who attend 75th Street live at or below poverty. Unemployment is close to 20 percent. Single mothers raise close to one third of the children. More than a quarter of the mothers have less than a ninth-grade education.
Almost as soon as the kids bound off the bus, a group of students start peering through a fence. I follow them.
"What are we looking at, Emily?" I ask.
As if in unison, five students answer, "the grass!"