Screaming String Thing

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In this simple and fun activity, learners discover the relationship between vibration and sound by making a squeaky toy instrument out of simple household materials. Participants explore how increasing and decreasing friction on a string changes the sound of a pitch. They also experience how sound is amplified. Learners can expand the activity by linking their string things to create a "telephone" or making different instruments from other recycled materials.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 6 - 11

Resource Type:

English, Spanish

Materials List (per student)

  • paper or plastic cups
  • large paper clips
  • cotton string
  • scissors
  • sharpened pencil
  • tape
  • water
  • dishwashing liquid


  • Life Sciences
    • Human Senses and Perception
      • Hearing
  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
      • Machines
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Wave Motion
      • Sound
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Invention and Innovation
      • Problem Solving

Informal Categories

  • Arts and Crafts
  • Music
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • hear
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Links STEM to other topics of interest such as arts and humanities
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

Components that are part of this resource:

Includes alignment to state and/or national standards:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • WGBH

Source Collection

  • Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman


  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2009

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0813513
  • Public television viewers