Stuart Woman Wins 2012 Jefferson Award for Creating Game to Teach Children About the Environment

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Elizabeth "Betty" Underwood of Stuart is a 2012 Jefferson Award recipient for creating the "Marine Debris Trash Game," a tool for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary educational program that teaches children about the importance of keeping the oceans clean. Underwood is a member of Flotilla 51 of the Palm Beaches. Photo by Deborah Silver, Treasure Coast Newspapers.

When Elizabeth Underwood approached a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary table that was set up at the Boynton Beach Mall more than five years ago, she had no idea she would be making such a huge impact.

Article by Michelle Ashworth, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

Auxiliarist Underwood of Stuart, won the 2012 Jefferson Award for creating a game that shows children the importance of cleaning up the ocean. By turning a small plastic box into a simulated ocean, she has been able to show young children what does and does not belong in the water.

“I just wanted to promote environmental stewardship with the game, with the kids,” she said. “My generation seemed to really make a mess of this good earth, but maybe I can fix it.”

Originally called “Trolling for Trash,” this environmentally friendly game is being used nationally by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary as a teaching tool and is now known as the “Marine Debris Trash Game.” The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is the volunteer arm of the U. S. Coast Guard.

Otto Spielbichler, the staff officer of marine safety and environmental protection for Division 5 of the Auxiliary, fully supports Underwood’s nomination.

“She did something original,” he said. “She’s a terrific organizer and she deserves the recognition.”

Underwood always has been passionate about the environment. She and her husband, Jim, were scuba divers for more than 30 years. When she retired and moved to Florida several years ago, she knew she needed to do something, and the Auxiliary seemed like the perfect fit.  She is now the assistant to the division marine safety and environmental protection officer for the Auxiliary.

“I wanted to do something that was meaningful,” she said. “When they started to talk to me about the environmental end of what they did, I thought, ‘Wow, that’s something I could really be interested in.’ ”

Underwood is one of five local winners of the award. She was surprised when she got the call about two weeks ago.

“I was completely overwhelmed,” Underwood said. “I am truly, truly humbled by it. If I can be an agent of change for a handful of people, hopefully, it will help make a difference.”

 

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