In Noah's Children, Sara Stein introduces us to whittling with wood and her
project to learn how to carve pairs of animals and people who will inhabit her biblical
Noah's ark. She uses this handiwork metaphorically to take us outdoors to recall past
childhood adventures and experiences with animals. In this imaginative way, she tells
us how childhood freedom to connect with plants and animals in the wild can buttress
later competencies in childhood and adolescence including creativity, joyfulness,
altruism ("the hallmark of motherhood") and relationships measured against consistent
moral standards. Stein focuses on how these subtle, sensory perceptions of the outdoors
emerge from 200,000
years of biological ancestry (e.g., Australopithecus afarensis; the
symbolic mind; language) and related physical predispositions (e.g., a child's early
preference for the color red; the desire to cuddle with soft, round, furry, wide-eyed
The author looks through the eyes of children (both boys and girls), her reflections of
childhood, and informed observations from primate and fossil records to help us understand
how children play, explore, expand, build, and rule their world like the Monstera genus
vine near Tortuguero. She emphasizes how children get parents to respond to them, and
how they reach out to parents to help them understand needs for growth, place, connections,
and stability within bounded life spaces.
The author critiques some models of human development, but goes on to carve out an
argument against some current child-rearing practices, formal schooling, and specific technological changes that have had unwanted environmental, developmental, and
ultimately cultural consequences. Through out Noah's Children she explains
why we need to fill out our understanding of the outdoors, wild animals, their connections
with and ecological impact on children, especially for their physical, social, psychological identities and formative moral development.
The author believes apparent disruptions within the ecosystems have disturbed and
alienated children which can lead by adolescence to overt frustration, anger, and distrust
of adults as role models, mentors, and pathfinders. Here she places the responsibility
squarely on parents and concerned adults to nurture, articulate and lay out clear ecological, ethical, and authentic role pathways for children -- paths which offer realistic incentives
and transcendent rewards for becoming more mature, responsible adults.
This fascinating book brings enjoyment to read, nostalgia to experience, a tear here, a
chuckle and sobering fact there. When all is said and done, the author presents a broader
look at nature in the wild as necessary to understanding ultimately moral questions to
consider for life in the 21st century. What human rights AND animals rights should
become ethics to live by daily? What can we achieve and how can we attain the level
of consensus needed to follow these ideals, if we rarely meet face-to-face to discuss our
beliefs, parenting, and management practices for the maintenance of all species' lives?
How can we reinforce children's momentous experiences for learning outside the classroom
yet retain the openness, freedom, joy, energy, and desire to participate in the ecology now
and in the near future? This book is recommended to any one wishing to learn, parent,
teach, care for and consider these questions. What are the consequences, pro and con, for
how we answer them?