Naturalist Pam Otto launches ‘Good Natured Hour’ variety show
Pam Otto believes every organism has a story to tell.
And for the past 12+ years, the St. Charles Park District’s outreach ambassador and naturalist has been telling those stories to residents: from seniors to preschoolers; to members of civic and social organizations; and to readers of her weekly newspaper column, “Good Natured.”
“Getting those stories out there is what led to what we are doing today,” Otto said.
Today, she’s telling nature’s story virtually. Otto is sharing her passion for the environment and all its living creatures during a new weekly variety show, “Good Natured Hour.”
The program, held every Tuesday night at 8 p.m. via Zoom, takes a deeper dive into Otto’s weekly column published by the Kane County Chronicle, but supplements that topic and others with video, photos, and a live look at animals and insects, book recommendations and audience participation.
Each variety show covers multiple topics. A recent “Good Natured Hour” included a discussion about weasels, lightning bugs, cicadas and bats.
But the show is no mundane science lecture. Otto’s presentation style is conversational, and similar to her column, her quirky personality and humor are naturally woven in – illustrated during the show with songs and movie clips from yesteryear; recorded video footage in natural areas; and “interviews” with animals and insects.
Nature experienced virtually
The COVID-19 pandemic was the impetus for the virtual “Good Natured” program, but it has been a goal of Otto’s for some time.
“It has been a dream of mine to share all the things I don’t have room for in my weekly newspaper column and also to supplement the information with video,” she explained.
Even when the pandemic is over, she’d like to continue the Zoom program.
“This format allows for news about outdoor happenings to be accessible, even if the experience is not. The Zoom platform allows us to bring nature to anyone,” Otto said.
“I hope the show fosters a greater appreciation for the environment,” she added. “Maybe it won’t generate a love for a particular insect but maybe it’ll lead to someone adding native plants to their backyard, using a little less insecticide or not swatting a wasp.”
Even when Otto is not working, “work” is always on her mind, feeding her curiosity and potential subjects to present to her audience.
“Nature surrounds us wherever we go,” Otto said. “If I’m thinking or wondering about something, most likely someone else is too. And ‘Good Natured’ allows me to learn about something new and to share it with someone else. That’s a favorite part of my job.”
This passion for outdoor education comes across in her column and show; one would assume she’s been in this role her entire life. But that is not the case.
Otto’s curiosity of the natural world began at an early age, always looking at bugs, catching frogs or flipping over rocks to see what was underneath. But when she was discouraged to become a naturalist by a guidance counselor, she took another route and pursued a career in food journalism.
When she wasn’t writing, she was outside exploring the great outdoors. Then, 20 years ago she set out to live the dream she had as a child and started volunteering at a local forest preserve nature center.
“The minute I walked in, I thought, “This is it. This is where I’m supposed to be,’” Otto said.
That experience lead to staff naturalist positions and a master’s degree in outdoor education. Then, 13 years ago, she landed at the St. Charles Park District, where she has served as manager of nature programs and interpretive services and Hickory Knolls Discovery Center manager, until her most recent position as the park district’s outreach ambassador.
The fee for each the “Good Natured Hour” is $2 to fund the upkeep and well-being of the education animals at the Hickory Knolls Discovery Center. Register at https://stcparks.ticketleap.com/goodnatured/