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TO DEC. 29
It’s never too early to teach your wee ones about the scientific wonders of the bulletproof vest. Go on: Dish out the Fruity Pebbles, turn off SpongeBob, then learn ’em good about stopping deadly slugs with a protective chest plate. Oh boy—I’m gonna be an uptight dick of a dad. As the centerpiece of a new kid-aimed exhibition at the National Museum of American History—titled, curiously enough, “Invention at Play”—DuPont chemist Stephanie Kwolek (pictured) is heralded for her mid-’60s concoction that would become Kevlar. Kids can fondle the lightweight protective polymer, then gawk at the magnified results of what happens when a speeding bullet slams into something bulletproof. Granted, Kwolek’s invention—which won the National Medal of Technology in 1996—has saved millions of law enforcers. But to me, teaching preschoolers about Kevlar’s most infamous use seems kinda…advanced for humans who still believe in Santa. The exhibition’s cheerier activities include a hands-on demonstration of Newman Darby’s cool idea: the sailboard. (Don’t worry, the line goes fast.) A tribute to Alexander Graham Bell includes a phonautograph that “makes a picture of your voice.” In a brainiac midway, kids can use basic household items to make lotsa cool stuff (windmills, Skee-Ball tracks, personalized names in spatulas). And there’s a colorful bounty of neat-o trivia: Did you know that Paul Sperry got the idea for his boat shoes by studying his dog’s paws? Now that’s proper kids’ stuff. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily to Sunday, Dec. 29, at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, 14th and Constitution Avenue NW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Sean Daly)