Their extraordinary story of surviving in the wild attests to the remarkable abilities of children

Fidencio Valencia, the grandfather of child survivors of a Cessna 206 plane that crashed in thick jungle. Picture: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Fidencio Valencia, the grandfather of child survivors of a Cessna 206 plane that crashed in thick jungle. Picture: REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez

Published Jun 21, 2023


A remarkable 40 days after the plane in which they were travelling crashed, killing every adult on board, four siblings, including an infant, were recovered alive and healthy in the jungle of Colombia.

President Gustavo Petro, who shared the story's miraculous conclusion with reporters from the New York Post, said that the children's amazing tale of survival "will remain in history."

One of the rescue dogs, operated by Colombian army officers who joined the search weeks ago, eventually found the tenacious kids in the Amazon rainforest.

“They were saved by the woods”, Petro wrote on social media. He told the New York Post that "they are children of the jungle and now they are children of Colombia."

They were travelling with their mother from the Amazonian community of Araracuara to San Jose del Guaviare in a Cessna single-engine propeller plane when it crashed into the deep jungle at the beginning of May.

The kids, who range in age from 13 to 9, 4, and 11 months, are Huitoto natives. The wreckage, which was discovered by a search team in the middle of May, contained the bodies of the mother, another adult, and the pilot.

Soon after, the army of Colombia joined the search and rescue effort, sending 150 soldiers equipped with dogs to find the children.

Soldiers threw food boxes into the bush to help the siblings survive the arduous search amid dense cover and harsh weather.

Rescuers, who also included Native American volunteers, played a message from the children's grandmother over megaphones, pleading with the group to remain together.

Readers embarked on a journey of discovery through pre-modern villages and camps on five continents with Dr Cornelius N. Grove, an expert on children's learning and parenting across cultures.

How children in traditional civilizations acquire useful information and life skills - and develop into helpful members of their families and communities - is shown.

This is done with significantly less daily parental involvement (and anguish) than most American parents invest in their children. How is that even possible?

According to Dr. Grove, the more traditional a modern civilization is, the more like our ancestors' way of life it is.

He went on to say that it's feasible for current people to learn insightful things about their own parenting practices by getting to know their ancestors' parenting practices again.

He stated that the dramatic contrasts he saw throughout his investigation caused him to step back and consider parenting from a distance.

He highlighted a number of doable changes that would be advantageous for both parents and children.

Dr Grove presented a wealth of thought-provoking contrasts between the child-rearing practices in pre-modern societies on five continents and those of the majority of middle-class American parents in his groundbreaking new book, ‘How Other Children Learn: What Five Traditional Societies Tell Us about Parenting and Children's Learning’.

According to Dr Grove, one of the most surprising things about parents in traditional societies is how disengaged they are from their kids.

He also noted the absence of the accessories, experiences, and frantic 24/7/365 devotion that we typically associate with parenting.

Traditional civilizations, according to Dr Grove, are those that have not been impacted by modern values or urbanisation or industrialisation.

They can be found in small towns and camps where residents spend their days cultivating, hunting, or obtaining their daily sustenance while having little to no exposure to formal education.

‘How Other Children Learn’ examines five societies in depth: the Aka hunter-gatherers of Africa, the Quechua of highland Peru, the Navajo of the American Southwest, the village Arabs of the Levant, and the Hindu villagers of India.

The book was based on the published research of childhood anthropologists.

Each society contains a separate chapter that briefly summarises the history and current state of that society before probing adults' perspectives and coping mechanisms with reference to early education and preparation for adult socialisation.

Two summary chapters that rely heavily from anthropologists' research on a variety of traditional communities and provide examples from the five societies the book covers make up the book's conclusion.

The first summary chapter describes how kids in traditional countries come to accept taking on family obligations, and it makes recommendations for how American parents can achieve a similar result.

The second compares traditional societies' methods of ensuring that their children have opportunity to study and develop into mature, responsible individuals with contemporary middle-class habits of childrearing and school attendance.

Dr Grove continued, like their conventional peers, today's kids have a natural capacity to learn on their own and with other kids by freely exploring, mimicking adults, and participating in all kinds of activities that happen by chance in their community.

How are the chances for modern kids to freely explore and interact with others compared to those for kids in the past?

Modern kids have virtually few hobbies outside of school, extracurriculars, and screen time.