When it comes to kids' interests, their quest for expertise can often be impressive. For today's parents and grandparents, there are certain aspects that can feel universal: trends in toys, like hula hoops in the 1950s; bands, like the Beatlemania of the 1960s; new media, like the emergence of video games in the 1970s; dance styles, like break dancing in the 1980s; music-inspired fashion, like 1990s grunge; and fantasy worlds, like the aughts' fantasy sports leagues. It's exciting to watch young people define themselves and develop a lifestyle.
Obsessing can be a rite of passage. In its most positive expression, it's also a pivotal aspect of learning, self-inquiry, and social identity, and it's a stepping stone into adult culture (which has its own cadre of wine nerds, gadget geeks, and cosplayers).
According to Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist at UC-Urvine, there are three levels to mastering a preoccupation: hanging out, messing around, and geeking out. The last being the highest level of absorption in something, leading to expertise.
We asked kids ages 10 to 17 from all around the region to show us what they get nerdy about. It's a peek at where the passions of Hudson Valley kids lie.
Rowan, 13, of Saugerties, is always carving. He makes utensils and toys from wood reclaimed from his dad’s woodshop.
Starla, 12, from Saugerties, is a geek about musicals. The Broadway channel on Sirius XM is the only station she’ll listen to, and for her birthday and holidays, she only wants one thing: tickets.
(pictured left to right) 10-year-old Nevaeh, 10-year-old Alex, 17-year-old Amber, and 11-year-old Evangeline, are all on the Center for Creative Education’s (CCE’s) Energy Dance Team, which rehearses up to three times a week for up to three hours a day, and is heading to Los Angeles in July.
10-year-old Devon from Woodstock needed a serious discussion before seeing the Broadway hit “Hamilton” for the first time. She shouldn’t sing along, her parents told her. So she just mouthed all the words.
11-year old Charlie was hoping to hop my stockade fence for his portrait. He spends hours each week studying parkour with Innate Movement Parkour of Kingston.
For 11-year-old Fae, living in the woods of High Falls is kind of like living in the TV show, “Gravity Falls.” She spends her days lurking around in her black t-shirt, searching for monsters, gnomes, and unicorns whose horns play rave music.
Shokan’s Jayla, 14, had to tune her guitar before posing with it. She alternated playing it or her ukulele during her photo session.
Benny, 13, of New Paltz, has been filmmaking and film buffing for 10 years. Two of his 40 short films have been featured in film festivals. He’s currently working through the great directors from A to Z, studying all their best films.
Red Hook’s 12-year-old Guinevere has a 25-piece collection of wands, time-turners, books, t-shirts, and other Harry Potter paraphernalia. She says they make her feel like she’s part of author J.K. Rowling’s vivid, imaginative world.
16-year-old Annaka of Kingston has been in too many plays to count. She’s been performing since she was two. She appears in “Suessical” at the Woodstock Playhouse the first weekend in June.
17-year old Amber of Kingston loves doing and re-doing her own makeup because of its transformative powers.
After the Harry Potter books were read to her when she was four, 14-year-old Zoe of Kingston read the series of seven books independently five more times. Zoe is a Slytherin. She says people are layered, and which house you’d get sorted into comes from who you are at your deepest level.
Kyleel, 16, goes to art class at Kingston High School every day. He especially likes Japanese media because he feels it’s different from the art he experiences in American culture.
Elijah, 12, from New Paltz, loves to draw dragons. He’s designing characters for an animated series he’s developing.
Clockwise from top left, inner circle:
16-year-old Mercy of Saugerties, has two windowsills filled with succulents planted inside thrift store tea cups. She became interested in the plants when she learned how to propagate them.
For a while “Ruthless” Ruth, 11, was the only girl skateboarder around Gardiner. So she started the Majestic Sk8 Cru, a Hudson Valley chapter of the national GRO (Girl Riders Association), to encourage more girls to kick it.
Fidget Spinners are great for helping kids focus, but New Paltz’s Lucian, 10, finds the new trend addictively fun, too. He researches the toy on YouTube and designs his own tricks.
12-year old Robert “Jewiz” is playing varsity basketball for Bishop Dunn Memorial School in Newburgh next year. He’s passionate about becoming an NBA player, and spends his free time drawing portraits of NBA players and athletic gear logos.
Celeste is 11 and from Accord. Modern dance is her thing. She thinks of choreography as an abstract painting of movement, where the dancer is the painting, the paintbrush, and the painter at the same time.
These two sets of sisters created a business plan for their dream restaurant, The Panda and the Moon Bear. They pitched it to local restauranteur, Cheryl Pfaff, and then Amy (11, on right) and Hannah (9, center left) of Saugerties, and Daniella (10, on left) and YiSheen (6, center right) of Rhinebeck took over Black Eyed Suzie’s in Saugerties one day. Their pop-up restaurant featured Korean and Chinese cuisine and was so successful (they raised hundreds of dollars for the endangered animals whom are their restaurant’s namesake) that they’re already planning for next time.