February 2018

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After 11 years, the Ladue Education Foundation & Alumni Association (LEF) has seen some of its pilot programs blossom into much bigger enterprises that engage students throughout the district. Robotics is one field in which LEF grants have had a lasting impact.

The journey began with Reed’s Outstanding BOTS (ROBOTS) in the 2008-09 school year, when two gifted specialists attended a five-day course, “Teaching Robotics using LEGO Mindstorms Robotics,” at Carnegie Mellon University to advance Reed Elementary’s robotics program. The following year, S’Cool Tools Robotics provided students with STEM instruction in and outside the classroom by introducing students to the technological world of robotics. Then, in the 2010-11 school year, all Ladue Middle School sixth graders were offered robotics as part of their exploratory curriculum. The pilot grant that had begun at the grade-school level had grown to impact more than 1,000 students in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The LEF increased the grant in the 2011-12 school year to ensure that the robotics program would be incorporated into the existing high school program. The seed money from the LEF enabled students at Ladue Horton Watkins High School to form Team 4330 Rambunction. Each year, Rambunction builds a robot to compete regionally in the FIRST Robotics Competition. In 2016, the team took first place at the Saint Louis Regional Competition and went on to compete at the Championships, which brings regional winners from around the world to pit their robots against each other in challenges of technology, engineering and teamwork.
The Rambunction team members are enthusiastic about this year's possibilities and are raising money to compete in upcoming events. If you’d like to sponsor the funding of their robot building kit, team fees or travel expenses, you can donate here and designate "Rambunction" in the comments. To learn more about the team, visit
The LEF is proud to help foster innovation, create meaningful change and prepare students for a global economy through our LEF Grant Program. For more about the grants we’ve awarded, VISIT OUR WEBSITE...

You can attend this year’s Innovation Celebration and continue to support STEM and other opportunities, or take advantage of other ways to participate, such as sponsoring a teacher's admission. LEARN MORE...



Jonathan Losos, LHWHS class of 1980, will be the keynote speaker at the LEF Annual Spring Event, Innovation Celebration, on April 13. Losos, who is internationally renowned for his work in biodiversity research, recently returned to St. Louis to lead the newly created Living Earth Collaborative, a partnership between Washington University, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden. The initiative's aim is to better understand the biological richness of the world, as well as to stop the extinction of the Earth’s plants and animals, which is happening at a jarring pace. 

“The three institutions all have similar interests—plants, animals and research in how species arise and how to lessen the threats to their existence. Together and with the many others in St. Louis with similar missions, we can create synergy and help make St. Louis a hotspot for research and biodiversity study,” Losos says. 

There is a sense of urgency behind the work of the collaboration: the Earth is currently experiencing a period of mass extinction. “There have been five major extinctions in the history of life over 600 million years,” Losos explains. “The rate of extinction today hasn’t been this great since the meteor hit the Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.”

This extinction is something we should all be concerned about, he says. “The plant and animal species provide services for us, some of which we may never understand until they are gone. They are part of an ecosystem, and when one part of that system is taken away, it is a threat to us all,” he continues. “And ethically, as stewards of the Earth, it is our responsibility to mitigate this crisis by understanding what the problems are and how to address them.”

Losos compares his work on the origin of biodiversity to that of a detective. “If you want to understand how the world came to be as it is, it’s about history. I see it as a detective story: we want to investigate what happened in the past, how new species arose and adapted to the environment in which they live.” 

Losos’s passion for research and biology, appropriately, arose organically. “As a kid, I was fascinated by dinosaurs, and unlike most kids, that didn’t go away,” he explains. His parents helped foster that curiosity by allowing him to keep a pet caiman, a small species of alligator, which only caused his interest to grow. 

Losos credits Ladue Schools as another motivator. “Ladue has fantastic science teachers who not only taught me the facts of science but also taught me the scientific method—how scientists know what they know. They did a wonderful job teaching me what it’s like to be a scientist,” he says. The importance of STEM courses continues to grow as our world becomes more technologically advanced, he emphasizes. “You have to understand science in the modern world to understand the world we live in. If you don’t understand science, you can’t make good decisions.”
Losos’s appreciation of the caliber of his education extends across every subject. “I had fabulous teachers all the way through,” he says. The debate team taught him how to organize and present an argument. “Debating challenged me to see the big picture and convey an argument, which is integral in the research I do today,” he says. “I credit the English department for teaching me how to write. If you are going to be successful in research, you must be able to write,” he says. In fact, his book, Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution, was published last year to great acclaim.

After Losos graduated from LHWHS, he went to Harvard for his undergraduate studies. He then spent time at UC-Berkeley and UC-Davis for his Ph.D. and post-doctorate studies before returning to St. Louis to work as a professor at Washington University. In 2006 he returned to Harvard, where he stayed for 12 years before coming back to St. Louis this January. “It has been a fabulous start,” he says of his return. “It’s amazing how many conservationists are here—I’ve been very excited to be back!”

We hope you’ll join us at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to hear Jonathan Losos speak at Innovation Celebration, Friday, April 13, from 6:30 to 11 p.m.  Tickets are on sale now, and sponsorship opportunities are available. For more information, contact




Our Sixth Annual ’Due Run 4 Education will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018, and we're building our event committee now!

If you'd like to help our fantastic ’Due Run co-chairs organize, promote, or manage this family-friendly event, we welcome your involvement. No prior experience necessary!

Each year, participants of all ages join in the fun to run or walk the 1-mile or 5K course. The ’Due Run also raises thousands of dollars to support the work of the LEF as it continues its mission of enhancing student success.

To learn more or join this important committee, please contact Kristen Wild at



Every innovation needs its seed funding, and the Ladue Education Foundation & Alumni Association is grateful to the early supporters whose generous donations will advance the grants and programs that will be funded by our Annual Spring Event, Innovation Celebration.



The Ladue Education Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that
enables individuals and organizations to support student achievement
in the Ladue School District through tax-deductible donations.

Copyright © 2018 Ladue Education Foundation. All rights reserved.

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