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“Kids are like sponges” – Interview with Rich Lynch, ACE coordinator at the Museum of Flight

Name: Rich Lynch

Title: Aerospace Camp Experience coordinator for the Museum of Flight

Why the Museum of Flight?: I was a military brat. I grew up at the end of a runway so I’ve been around aviation and aircraft my entire life.

Educational Background: My educational background is I received my bachelor’s for history of political science at Wichita State University and I have a masters in public history (fields of history that are outside traditional fields of history, like museum management, corporate history) at the same university. My particular interest was and had always been museum management. And so my graduate focus was in that area.

Work History: My first job out of school was at the Art Institute of Chicago. I was the archivist and records officer for the school. After that, I moved to Seattle and left museum work and went to work in private industry for 11 years and really didn’t enjoy it. So about 4 years ago, I got a job here at the museum and was the airpark lead for about 4 years and am now the ACE coordinator for the last 7 months.

First experience with the camp?: The airpark job was basically under the offices of the Education department. My first experience was helping Katie Peterson, who was my predecessor, to prepare for the summer. I did a lot of paperwork and office work my first summer, and I helped out during Blue Angels week, and every year I was a little more involved with the camp until last year, I was actually the aviation lead the entire summer and then when Katie left, I applied for the job and have been doing that since then.

Importance of educating children: It’s like when you’re working with children, you’re getting the river at its source in the mountains rather than at its delta. So the smallest change can have a much larger impact far downstream, so everything you do has the potential to be much more significant than you would have with adults. And especially with the stuff we deal with. Like our earliest and youngest kids in the camp (pre-K through even the second graders), these kids are still deciding what things in the world and the universe they think is good and cool and neat. So you always have to be cognizant of that.

Difficulties and rewards of working with children: When dealing with children, they absorb everything. Everything you say, everything you do, every way you behave. All of it is without the filters that you get with adults, who can look at what you’re doing and say something like oh, they’re just having a bad day. Kids don’t have that. Kids are like sponges, they just lick it all up. So you always have to be completely aware of yourself. You have to have an enormous amount of self-awareness of what you’re doing and what you’re saying.

The flip side of that is that it’s incredibly rewarding when you’ve managed to take a kid that says this isn’t very much fun and I don’t like this and you get them turned around to the point of thinking this is cool, I can do this, I want to do this. You see that light come on and you see that interest go, and it’s one of the best feelings in the world. Working with kids the way we do in camp, even though we only do it a month or two at a time in the summertime, one of the things we’re able to do is we have a lot of continuity. We have a lot of kids coming back, so you’re able to build on what you started with, and you’re able to see the seeds over the year grow in unexpected ways. And that’s the other thing about kids, they will surprise you. And you never know when what you’re saying, what you’re gonna do will affect a kid and how. So it’s very challenging, it’s something that if you’re doing it right and you’re putting into it what it deserves in the way of effort, it’s exhausting, it’s incredibly difficult, it requires a very motivated and very interested person to do it well. Because you’re always in the spotlight. You never have a chance where you can relax and say some flippant remark or something like that, you’re always having to think what it means when I say this, and how it will affect a kid 2 or 3 years down the line. It requires you to be aware of what’s going on around you and self-aware. Working with children can be very rewarding. And I get the added bonus of seeing what I’m doing have an impact and how the things that I do positively affects other people’s lives.

How would you define social justice?: I guess if I were to define it, to me personally, it would be equality. Equality of opportunity in a real sense, not just saying that everyone can get to the same place, but providing those people who have an ability to find a way to maximize that ability, be it through education or training or whatever. I really do believe that the vast majority of people that are given the opportunity will find a way to make the most of that. If you really want a society to get better and to improve and to become just, then everybody in that society should have the opportunity to be successful in whatever it is they want to do. We talk about equality and say look, we have the same public schools. But it’s more than that. It’s also creating the opportunities within socioeconomic groups so that a kid doesn’t have to go to work at 15 to support his family when another kid who might be just as bright and just as eager doesn’t have that. You can’t just throw things out there and say that takes care of it. You have to really strive to make it real. To me, it’s more than just objects. It’s an attitude, it’s a belief, it’s a thought, it’s a process.

How does your role relate to this idea of social justice?: I work at one of the best places in the world to do this. Because we provide an area of not just experience but knowledge that is outside what a lot of people would ordinarily have access to. We’re talking about multimillion dollar pieces of equipment that the average person would never get a chance to interact with. And we provide them with the ability to see these things in a different way and to maybe be inspired by that in such a way that they will look for ways to pursue that dream or interest. And that’s the kind of thing we should do to create a society that’s merit-based, I guess that’s how I would put it.

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This entry was posted on August 7, 2012 by .
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