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Mystery Tubes

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    University of California Museum of Paleontology

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Mystery Tubes

Learners investigate a pre-constructed mystery tube to determine its interior mechanism. Working in small groups, learners pose explanations (hypotheses) for what they are observing and test their hypotheses. In a possible extension of this activity, learners build their own model to test their hypothesis. This lesson serves as a good introduction to the nature of scientific inquiry.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 11 - adult

Resource Types:
Activity, Demonstration, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • 10 inches of 2.5-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • 24 inches of 1/4-inch nylon rope
  • 1/4-inch slice of 3/4-inch diameter PVC pipe
  • drill
  • 3/8-inch drill bit
  • non-transparent tape
  • paper for drawing diagrams and pencils


  • Physical Sciences
    • Motion and Forces
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
    • Science as a Career


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • University of California Museum of Paleontology


  • All Rights Reserved, The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and The Regents of the University of California, ©2010

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, EAR-0624436


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