Thursday, January 29, 2009

Can Do!

Last fall, students at The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY built the world's tallest can pyramid as a community service project. Their goal was to raise awareness about recycling and waste, and to raise money for the
Help Kenya Project, which was founded by another Masters faculty member, Jude Ndambuki. Here is the full account of the event, written by guest blogger, Masters School faculty member, and architect of the world's tallest can pyramid, Matt Ives:

When they were just freshmen, the class of 2010 had the audacity to dream. Ava Bynum, then class president, now school secretary, hit on the idea of building the world's tallest pyramid of cans. The rest of the class thought it was a great idea. Little did they know what an enormous task they had set themselves.

It took eighteen months to collect the cans they needed. It took three months to glue the interior blocks. It took the entire class, now juniors, pulling together to work like ants to transport the cans to the gym, then stack them carefully in a steeply pitched pile.

More than 14,000 cans.

More than 18 feet high.

A lot of glue.

And finally…

At 5:30 p.m., Saturday, November 8, 2008.

The world's largest can pyramid.

Then came the fun part – knocking it down.

The class of 2010 put on a Can Fest on Sunday, November 9. The sun came out after days of rain. Parents, newspaper reporters, local dignitaries milled about in anticipation. Boys from the nearby Children's Village who had been collecting cans for the effort, set up a booth displaying their knowledge of the environment and the importance of recycling. Other clubs and local organizations set up booths to share their green efforts. Members of the Environmental Science class dressed as clean planet superheroes, shivering in their long underwear in the brisk autumn afternoon.

At 3:30 the assembled crowd entered the hall and was struck dumb by the awesome majesty of the dazzling pyramid towering threateningly center court in the gymnasium. It reached within arm's length of the ceiling.

Who, they wondered, could possibly knock down this behemoth?

Enter the hero. To the center ring strode Jude Ndambuki, chemistry teacher and founder of the Help Kenya Project, to challenge the beast. Wearing an oven mitt and a science lab safety glove, a lacrosse helmet and ordinary street clothes, Mr. Ndambuki was placed into a green recycling bin screwed to a wooden wagon.

The crowd was at a fever pitch.

Pushed by two students, Mr. Ndambuki was propelled with immense force into the pyramid. Huge chunks were torn from its side, but it did not yield until it was pelted with a multitude of dodge balls by the crowd. With a final groan, the great beast gave up, yielded to gravity, and collapsed in a great clamor to the floor, where it was quickly sorted into plastic bags and removed to the parking lot, leaving the gymnasium empty, bare and ready for basketball season.

Aluminum behemoth: 1 – Mr. Ndambuki: 0 – Kenyan Schools: 3000

For this community service project, the 109 students in the class of 2010 collected over 20,000 cans. By redeeming these cans and through money raised during CanFest (over $3,000), the class supports the efforts of the Help Kenya Project. This organization was founded by Masters chemistry teacher Jude Ndambuki. It collects and repairs used computers (as well as books and clothing), ships them to schools in Kenya and asks Kenyan children to plant 100 trees for every computer their school receives. For more information or to donate, please visit

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