SANTA ANA : Global Phone Call Links Young Pupils

It wasn't billed as the ultimate long-distance call, but it could have been.

As part of a program to acquaint children with global issues and other cultures, students at Glenn L. Martin Elementary School joined an hourlong conference call Wednesday linking classrooms on five continents.

Seated on the library floor near a speaker phone, the class of about 50 fourth- and fifth-grade students listened to speeches given by their peers in classrooms across the United States and as far flung as Africa, Poland, India, Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Organized by a schoolteacher in Oklahoma City, the event allowed students at more than two dozen schools across the globe a minute to describe their efforts to help others and restore and protect the environment.

"It's nice to hear other people in other parts of the world," said Lorena Garcia, who helped read her class's statement.

Not only did the event bring diverse cultures together, it also allowed people to share their support for programs aimed at recycling and helping the homeless, she said. "It makes me feel happy."

Technical glitches prevented the class from hearing most of the program, which included speeches by actress and environmental activist Valerie Harper and Robert Muller, a former assistant secretary general of the United Nations.

Still, about 50 students waited eagerly for the connection to be made and strained to hear through intermittent static as students from New Mexico and Texas described their efforts to feed the homeless.

During the call, Javier Cervantes told the telephone audience that "we are learning the values of staying in school, out of gangs and away from drugs. We are also planning to get good jobs."

Susan Eaton, who helped organize the event at Martin, said the call was intended to help prepare them for a lifetime of interaction with other cultures.

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