Scytale Messages

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In this activity, learners use a soda can to decode a secret message. Learners wrap scytale (pronounced ski-tally) code around a can and challenge friends to see if they can crack the codes. Learners can experiment with different cylinders to see how circumference plays a role in this activity. [Activity is publicly available through a web crawler capture on]

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 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
  • safety scissors
  • clear tape
  • pen or pencil
  • soda can
  • paper towel, broom stick, or other cylinders


  • Mathematics
    • Algebra
      • Patterns
    • Measurement
      • Circles
  • The Nature of Technology
    • The Design Process
      • Problem Solving
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations

Informal Categories

  • Crime Science
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Foreign language versions of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access



  • All rights reserved, WGBH Educational Foundation, 2005

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0337323
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  • The Weezie Foundation
  • PBS