Meet the environmental educator who uses virtual reality to teach kids about the ocean

Jessica Satherley
Meet the environmental educator who uses virtual reality to teach kids about the ocean
Annika Andresen was named Young Leader winner at the Women of Influence Awards

Annika Andresen grew up on a 30ft Townson Yacht, so it’s not surprising that she developed a passion for the ocean. 

The 25-year-old was named Young Leader winner at the Women of Influence Awards this year for her marine conservation work and is making waves in the environmental sector. 

Despite having a master's degree in Architecture, Andresen is using her engineering and design skills to make an impact as an environmental educator and has already taught over 20,000 school children. 

“I am a virtual reality environmental educator for BLAKE, so this year I’ve been traveling around schools in Auckland to show kids what it’s like underwater and the impacts we’re having in our environment,” she says. 


“The main goal is to get the kids really involved and immersed in the environment. 

"A lot of the time the ocean is invisible because you can’t see what’s underneath, so the VR element gets students to realise what it’s like in the water. 

“We then use that experience to compare and contrast different environments and understand how we are impacting this environment,” she said. 

“Some of the best reactions I’ve seen are when the kids have their headsets on, and they start going to touch the seaweed.  

“One student was lying on the ground and pretended he was swimming. That made my day,” she said. 

In 2016 Andresen was selected to be the BLAKE Antarctic Ambassador and subsequently went to Antarctica to work on Sir Edmund Hilary’s hut. 

“For me, Antarctica was a huge history lesson but also a science lesson and when I came back home, I started noticing more and more things around me environmentally and that’s when I started getting involved in the environmental work. 

“During my university studies I worked for Dive! Tutukaka on dive boats up north and I started as a snorkel guide before becoming a dive instructor,” she said. 

In 2016 she also became the president of the Auckland University Underwater Club and during her tenure, the club saw an historic rise in memberships. 

“My goal was to get as many divers in the water as possible and that year we reached over 400 people, which was the first time in the 60 years of the club’s history that we had that many active members.  

“We had trips that had over 40 people in them and meetings with over 100 people,” she said. 

“My goal for the future is to get as many people as possible inspired by the ocean.  

“Either to get them into the ocean or show them how incredible it is and also show them the reasons to protect it,” she says. 

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