St. John's Site Museum Opens Sunday

By Jenna Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 11, 2008

The grand opening for the St. John's Site Museum is set for 2 p.m. Sunday at Historic St. Mary's City. The facility is designed to help visitors explore the site's archaeology and history.

State-of-the-art displays, including audio and visual installations, are designed to help visitors understand the ways scholars use archaeology, historical documents and oral traditions to decipher the past. The foundation of the original structure at the site has been preserved, and original artwork can be seen to help visitors understand the evolution of the house and the tobacco plantation that surrounded it.

Artifacts found at the site also are displayed, and visitors can examine the contents of a trash pit to gain perspective on life in the Colonial era. Historic St. Mary's City was the site of the fourth permanent British settlement in North America and was the first capital of Maryland.

The museum will be open year-round. After the grand opening, the museum will be open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There is no admission charge. Parking is behind the St. Mary's College of Maryland admissions office, off College Drive on the campus. For information, call 240-895-4990 or go to

School Board Gets a Look At Interactive Whiteboards

The Charles County Board of Education meeting Tuesday was briefly transformed into an elementary math class as two teachers demonstrated the public school system's new Smart Boards.

At some schools, teachers can hook the interactive whiteboards to their computer or digital projector and, for example, display a slideshow presentation featuring math problems or language arts puzzles. Students can walk up to the touch-sensitive board and mark an answer, which is recorded to the computer in "digital ink" that can be reopened later.

On Tuesday, school board member Charles E. Carrington volunteered to go up to the board and split the image of a dollar bill into four quarters.

The interactive whiteboards are quickly replacing chalk and marker boards in many Charles County classrooms, thanks to county funding and a private donation. All six Title I schools in the county will be equipped with the boards.

"It's a wonderful tool. It grabs a child's attention and holds it," board member Pamela A. Pedersen said.

Charles Superintendent James E. Richmond says technology such as interactive whiteboards can help engage students. "Technology is the tool to bridge the gap," he said. He plans to show board members and parents additional technology tools during future meetings.

At the Tuesday meeting, board members also heard about new programs at Charles County Title I schools. They discussed stalled plans for building a high school and reviewed completed and ongoing construction and facility improvement projects at several schools.

Tibetan Buddhist Monks To Create Mandala at SMCM

Twelve Tibetan Buddhist monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery will create an exquisite geometric sand painting, called a "mandala," over four days starting Monday at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

The monks will begin the process at 12:30 p.m. at Daugherty-Palmer Commons by constructing the altar for the mandala and engaging in a half hour of chants, music and dance. Afterward, they will begin placing millions of grains of colored sand on a flat platform. Mandala is a Sanskrit word for the subject of a Tibetan sand painting.

Formed of a traditional prescribed iconography that includes geometric shapes and a multitude of ancient spiritual symbols, the mandala is used as a tool in Buddhism for re-consecrating the Earth and its inhabitants. The design symbolizes the universe and its powers. The monks on previous U.S. tours have displayed the sacred art in museums across the country.

The closing ceremony will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, when the monks will dismantle the mandala by sweeping up the colored sand. They will then lead a procession, which the public is invited to join, to a pond on campus. There, they will pour the sand into the water, symbolizing the Buddhist idea of the impermanence of life.

During the week, residents can watch the monks in ceremonial garb construct the mandala and attend public lectures. For information or a schedule of events, visit or contact John Schroeder at 240-895-4456, or go to

© 2008 The Washington Post Company