Meet Lisa Winters, an inspiring young woman whose childhood love for nature would lead her on the path to becoming a mentor for America’s 1st STEM City, also known as Flagstaff, Arizona.
Lisa grew up in Michigan fishing and exploring with her father, during which time she became intuitively aware of the world around her with an innate desire to explore and protect nature. She became very interested in telling the story of not only how things survive but also our part in the maintenance and retention of it all. Lisa’s journey took her from her home in Michigan to her first university in Indiana and finally to Utah State University where she received her degree in Aquatic Ecology. Following college Lisa took a job working for Arizona Game and Fish as a biologist in the Grand Canyon where her office included a raft and fishing pole in order to study the marine habitat of the mighty Colorado River. She would later take on an internship with Grand Canyon Trust as a Citizen Science Coordinator where she remains employed to this day.
As Lisa became involved with Grand Canyon Trust she had a chance encounter with Kathryn Wertz, a 6th grade teacher at Sinagua Middle School in Flagstaff. She expressed to Kathryn how fun it would be to bring her fish into the classroom to help better educate the students as to the life and sustainability of not only the wildlife but also the environment around them. Lisa wanted to not only share her interest in science with the children but to also help foster developing young minds on an exploration of discovery, connecting the dots for responsible management of the ecosystem. Lisa believes very strongly in keeping a child’s sense of curiosity alive so they continue to learn. She credits an environmental educator for doing just that for her when she was a kid in school searching for killdeer eggs and becoming inspired herself.
Lisa is very adamant about bridging people with nature and teaching them about protecting it. Her passion lies in expanding the knowledge base on policy and decision making in the real world with an understanding of the effects on our natural environment as being part of this process. She strongly believes it is important to take these steps with young minds and help to integrate this knowledge early in life so they may carry it on into their adult lives as stewards of the spaces around them.
Lisa recognizes Mindy Bell, former STEM City Coordinator and long time STEM educator, as an important influence and mentor who has an undying passion for STEM Education. Mindy is admired for her ability to connect people and build a shared vision of a successful and thriving Flagstaff community. Lisa is thankful for not only a wonderful mentor but thankful to live in Flagstaff, a science literate community where people and fields of science intersect uniquely and with great impact.
Lisa reflects on a particular moment in the classroom that helped to encourage her continued involvement as a classroom mentor while working with a group of 1st graders at Haven Montessori Charter School. She had brought in some fish to do a different style of teaching which in turn made quite a mess. With water all over and a few remaining students helping to clean up, she had an encounter with one little girl who looked up at her in the midst of the chaos and told her she wanted to be a fish biologist someday.
When asked what advice she would share with students Lisa had some great things to say. She recommends they follow their curiosity in what excites and drives them such as she has for her love of the outdoors. She also suggests not to be afraid to dig into a subject they like and unpack it. Take a leap of faith and do something they enjoy so it doesn’t feel like just a job later on in life.
The advice Lisa would give to others looking to become a fellow mentor is to not be intimidated by the amount of work it takes because it is worth it. It is also good practice as scientists to communicate their work to the general public and what better way to start than with 6th graders, who Lisa claims are not near as terrifying as a person may think.
You can learn more about Lisa and her work with Grand Canyon Trust here: https://www.grandcanyontrust.org/staff/lisa-winters
Written by Molly Brown incoming NAU Journalism student
Water is Life Mural of the Eastern Wall of Grand Canyon Spirits. Photo taken by Amber Benally
This fall The Grand Canyon Trust collaborated with Flagstaff High School, Mural Mice Universal, The Beehive Collective and Grand Canyon Spirits to bring together over 60 student artists to vision and install Flagstaff’s newest public art piece “Water is Life,” proving that young people, their voices and their visions have deep impact and weight in a rapidly evolving world.
In September of this year, Flagstaff High School art students Savannah Bell, Rebecca Encinas, Zia Kypta-Keith, Robin Bradley, Cecily Shaddy, Sherrissa Brown, Theresa, Ethan Johnson, Samantha Woody, Ava Steele, and Cynthia Begay attended a five day artists workshop retreat at Kane Ranch near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Brought together by the Grand Canyon Trust’s Youth Leadership Program, and co-facilitated with the Beehive Collective, the students were tasked with creating a collaborative piece showcasing the past, present and future of water justice on the Colorado Plateau.
Leonard Selestewa shares and teaches about his farm, life and history
To begin to process the pieces, students visited mine sites and met with Grand Canyon Trust’s Roger Clark, Grand Canyon Trust’s and Haul No’s Sarana Rigg’s and Leonard Selestewa, a Hopi Farmer whose livelihood has been continually affected by coal mining on Black Mesa. These connections and stories charged students with delivering a message of the history of injustice, subsequent resistance and possibilities for the future of water justice on the Colorado Plateau to the public.
Flagstaff High School artists sort through ideas and concepts with the Beehive Collective’s Tyler Bee at Kane Ranch
Students spent days visualizing their ideas, concepts and stories with concept maps, lists and sketches, finally narrowing down their ideas to create a mock-up for the mural. Throughout the fall over 70 students worked with Mural Mice Universal to install the piece and today the 39’x13’ Water is Life mural can be seen on the East facing wall of the Grand Canyon Spirits store (982 N. Fort Valley Rd.).
Zia Kypta-Keith paints the elder and storyteller, Horney Toad Chacter on Water is Life Mural
On October 24th community members gathered to listen to the story of the mural, told by the student designers, collaborators and contributors. They described their process, motivation and meanings behind their work and left the community with a call to act now! The students left the audience to reflect on the role of young leaders in their communities. Declaring that they are the future and can accomplish the seemingly impossible when given the chance.
Savannah Bell, Rebecca Encinas, Zia Kypta-Keith, Robin Bradley, Cecily Shaddy,
Sherrissa Brown, Theresa, Alexis Talayumptewa, Ethan Johnson, Samantha Woody, Ava Steele, and Cynthia Begay unveil the Water is Life Mural with Mural Mice Universal Margaret Dawer, R. E. Wall and Shiloh Dog. Photo by Erin Ford
Funding for this project was provided by Cecily Maniaci, owner of Grand Canyon Spirits, BBB Revenues from the City of Flagstaff, and the Flagstaff Arts Council.
Written by Chelsea Griffin, Youth Leadership Program Coordinator at Grand Canyon Trust