Not everyone had the best time in school learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM.

“Honestly most people’s experience within the K-12 system around STEM tends to maybe not have been as positive as it could have been,” Mark Lewis, CTE and STEM education policy director for Oregon’s Chief Education Office, said. “That’s the diplomatic way to say that a whole host of people who are mathematically traumatized in our society.”

At a STEM conference on Friday for Klamath Basin education and community leaders, Lewis cited the Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling professor’s study of “math trauma,” estimating that 20 to 30 percent of Americans have had a trauma-like experience when learning math.

“It really does for me show that we need to be shifting the way we go about teaching mathematics and sciences,” Lewis said. “We are coming up from science and math, knowing that people have had uncomfortable experiences so we’re trying to transform that and really light up students’ curiosity.”

Civic leaders, community organization representatives, post-secondary and K-12 educators discussed exploring STEM education and programs in the community throughout the conference held downtown on Friday.

The conference essentially brought key education leaders in the Basin together to brainstorm ways for establishing and making STEM programs grow — all while making them interesting and available to all students.

The conference was brought together by national, state and local organizations: National League of Cities, OregonASK and the Klamath Promise — all organizations geared toward supporting student achievement.

“It’s important to bring everyone together about STEM,” Anne Hill Clark, Klamath Promise coordinator said. “This is a chance to gather a lot of information and ideas from people. This information will be disseminated to not just these attendees but to others in their organizations and in other organizations too, so it’s a chance to create something to use to spread the word in the community.”

During the conference OregonASK Executive Director, Beth Unverzagt, spoke about using informal time to implement STEM.

For example, Unverzagt cited improving the quality of afterschool programs by coordinating with other schools and support systems for more long-term, sustainable outcomes.

Next up Lewis’ presented Oregon’s STEM Plan, an initiative to transform how STEM education takes place by focusing on four principles including, the student learning experience, making STEM available to all students, educators access to time and resources and lastly finding sustainable funding.

After Lewis’ speech, community members conducted a roundtable discussion based off of the prompt question, what would an ideal STEM afterschool or summer program look like, and how could it be supported or improved upon?

Students were far from excluded from the discussion.

After roundtable brainstorming, a student panel represented by Basin STEM program, Klamath Community College dual credit and career pathway certificates, Oregon Tech Liberal Arts Academy and Basin Partners Internship Program students took to the stage.

Students discussed and answered questions regarding possible improvements and build on STEM programs.

To conclude the conference Cort Cox, project lead for the Klamath Falls’ Blue Zones Project — a community based initiative to improve health and well-being — spoke about getting connected to the community.

For more information visit Oregon Education website followed by STEM Strategic Plan.

canderson@heraldandnews.com on Twitter @CAndersonHN