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.”


Tags: , , ,


Leave a Comment

We welcome your comments on postings at all Coast Guard sites/journals. These are sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide a forum to talk about our work providing maritime safety, security and stewardship for the American people to secure the homeland, save lives and property, protect the environment, and promote economic prosperity.

The information provided is for public information only and is not a distress communication channel. People in an emergency and in need of Coast Guard assistance should use VHF-FM Channel 16 (156.8 MHz), dial 911, or call their nearest Coast Guard unit.

All comments submitted are moderated. The Coast Guard retains the discretion to determine which comments it will post and which it will not. We expect all contributors to be respectful. We will not post comments that contain personal attacks of any kind; refer to Coast Guard or other employees by name; contain offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups, or contain vulgar language. We will also not post comments that are spam, are clearly off topic, or that promote services or products.

The U.S. Coast Guard disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from any comments posted on this page. This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

If you have specific questions regarding a U.S. Coast Guard program that involves details you do not wish to share publicly please contact the program point of contact listed at

The U.S. Coast Guard will not collect or retain Personally Identifiable Information unless you voluntarily provide it to us. To view the U.S. Coast Guards Privacy Policy, please visit:

Please note: Anonymous comments have been disabled for this journal. It is preferred that you use your real name when posting a comment. WE WILL POST THE NAME YOU ENTER WHEN YOU SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT. Also, you are welcome to use Open ID or other user technologies that may be available.