PLAY EASES TRANSITION; STUDENTS LEARN MAKING FRIENDS AT NEW SCHOOLS NOT TOO FRIGHTENING.
Laser lights flashed at Zap City on Wednesday, leaving no doubt that youngsters there were going to have fun, fun, fun till their teachers took the laser toys away.
And these teachers, special education instructors all, threw a festive bash with the amusement center's help in hopes of making the social transition from sixth to seventh grade less stressful for their students.
``It's scary going into a whole new environment,'' said Allison Sheen, special ed teacher at Sierra Vista Junior High School, whose students were anxious to let the games begin.
Ranging in age from 11 to 14, these boys and girls do well academically for the most part but have a bit of trouble with socialization, school officials said.
So to strengthen positive social ties between the sixth- and seventh-graders, William S. Hart Union School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education co-hosted the ultra high-tech bash - just the thing to appeal to adolescents.
As soon as the teachers would permit, the kids suited up in laser togs, divided into teams, then grabbed their zap guns.
But these guns were like no other plastic, laserlike toys; they were capable of emitting colored rays easily seen in a room darker than any movie theater.
Gleeful shouts of ``I got him,'' ``I want him on my team,'' and ``Look out behind you'' rang out over the din of the laughter amid the noise of more than 50 pairs of athletic shoes.
One of the dedicated gamers, Matt, 13, a seventh-grader at Sierra Vista, said he liked the cool effects of the lights and enjoyed meeting new friends, even if they were sixth-graders. After all, they'll be seventh-graders next year.
``This type of action atmosphere lets kids have fun together in a relaxed setting,'' Sheen said as she good-naturedly dodged a zap from a laser gun.
Sheen knows how traumatic going to a new school can be.
``It's scary for these kids to make the transition, we know that,'' she said. So the teachers decided to pick a place where the kids could play games together, meet new friends and learn to work together.
And it didn't hurt that Zap City's manager, Bret Lieberman, had a personal interest in the young game players. Both of his parents are special education professionals. His mom, Ricki Lieberman, is a special ed assistant at Old Orchard Elementary School in Valencia; his dad, Marty Lieberman, is the administrator for special education for the Hart district.
Although the Hart district's special ed program can benefit these students throughout high school, many of them leave the program by earning progress credits, eventually returning to the main student body, school officials said.
In the meantime, the teachers want to keep a warm, familial atmosphere for their special students, Ricki Lieberman said.
``This party is like a homecoming to us. We like to see how our former sixth-graders have succeeded and grown. Even their voices have changed while they've grown so tall,'' she said.
PHOTO (1--Color) Verny, 11, performs tricks on the Top Skater game as Mike, 11, left, and Brian, 12, watch.
(2--Color) Two of the 10 members of the green team roam through the Laser Tag maze as special education students socialize with each other at Zap City in Valencia.
John Lazar/Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||May 20, 1999|
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