On a typical cold Summer Solstice day in San Francisco, there were dozens of kids running around Civic Center Plaza having their faces painted...
...having fun with arts and crafts...
...and rolling around in plastic Giant Hamster Balls on the lawn.
The afternoon's activities were part of National Summer Learning Day, a program that started at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore as an attempt to offer summer learning and fun to poor kids whose parents can't afford summer camps.
According to the national website:
"The National Summer Learning Association began as the National Center for Summer Learning at Johns Hopkins University--but the story really goes back to 1992, when Johns Hopkins’ student Matthew Boulay recruited his fellow undergraduates to provide tutoring and academic support to Baltimore City public schools students during the summer months. Boulay’s summer project grew into a successful summer program called Teach Baltimore that helped boost students’ reading scores."
"At the same time, mounting research documented "summer slide,” a cumulative loss of academic skills over the summer months that disproportionately affects low-income students, contributing to high drop-out rates and a persistent academic achievement gap between richer and poorer students. As a result, the need emerged for a national organization devoted to making summer learning available to all children, but especially those children trapped in poverty without access to high quality summer learning resources, such as lessons, summer camps, educational vacations, and other enrichment opportunities."
The fancier activities at Civic Center were provided by an outfit called Games2U, which even included a Laser Tag game that looked equal parts fun and disturbing.
Most of these kids live in the Western Addition and Bayview neighborhoods where real teenage gunplay is an unfortunate reality.