Waterbottle Membranophone

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In this activity, you'll use a straw, a water bottle and a paper tube to make an instrument that's very much like a saxophone. The activity, which teaches students about sound, vibration, and pitch, includes three short online videos: Introduction, Step-by-Step Instructions, and What's Going On. Also available: a concept map and a "Going Further" document that suggests variations on this activity.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
5 to 10 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
1 cent - $1 per student

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Type:


Materials List (per student)

  • a clean, empty water bottle, any size (bottles with ridges are best)
  • scissors
  • utility knife (for adults only; children should use scissors)
  • latex, rubber, or vinyl gloves (or a balloon, though it’s harder to work with)
  • rubber band
  • hole punch
  • a straw
  • construction paper (acetate or card stock works too)


  • Physical Sciences
    • Vibration and Waves
      • Sound

Informal Categories

  • Music
  • Toys


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • hear
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

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


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • The Exploratorium

Source Collection

  • Science After School Consumer's Guide


  • All rights reserved, The Exploratorium, 2007

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation

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