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Media Advisory 08-035

Dec. 1 Antarctic Videoconference Bridges Past and Future of Polar Science and Exploration

Students at Maryland's Matthew Henson Elementary School to interact with teacher in Antarctica

Photo of Shakira Brown en route to Antarctica.

Shakira Brown en route to Antarctica.

November 26, 2008

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Students at Matthew Henson Elementary School in Prince George's County, Md., will see, speak with and pose questions to Shakira Brown, a teacher at New York's Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy, during a videoconference scheduled for Monday, Dec. 1 at 11:30 a.m.

Brown has spent the past few months in Antarctica as a member of a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported scientific team seeking to document what conditions were like in Antarctica tens of millions of years ago.

Brown is taking part in the Offshore New Harbor (ONH) Project, headed by Stephen Pekar, a geology professor at Queens College, City University of New York (CUNY). The researchers are seeking to unravel some of the mysteries of the earth's climate. The research is supported by the U.S. Antarctic Program. As manager of the program, NSF coordinates all U.S. government-sponsored research on the southernmost continent.

The video link will also symbolically bridge a gap between Earth poles and add a page to the history of Polar exploration.

Matthew Henson Elementary School is an appropriate venue for this collaboration. Henson, who was born on a farm in Charles County, Md., in 1866, accompanied Robert E. Peary on a U.S. expedition to the North Pole on April 6, 1909, and was the first African-American to reach the Pole. In 1912 he wrote A Negro Explorer at the North Pole about his experiences. Henson accompanied Peary on a total of eight Arctic expeditions over 22 years.

After his death in 1955, Henson was buried in New York City's Woodlawn Cemetery. In 1968, the body of his wife Lucy Ross Henson was buried nearby. In 1988, President Reagan granted permisson for Henson and his wife to be reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery alongside Peary.

The exchange between Henson's namesake school and Brown will take place during the International Polar Year (IPY), for which NSF is the lead U.S. agency. One of the IPY goals is to "excite and engage" the public about science as well as foster a new generation of polar researchers.

For more information on Brown's experience in Antarctica, go to


Media Contacts
Peter West, NSF, (703) 292-7761, email:
John White, Prince George's County Public Schools, (301) 952-6001, email:

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, its budget is $8.1 billion. NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and other institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 50,000 competitive proposals for funding and makes about 12,000 new funding awards.

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