The lady Ada Show

The Lady Ada Show is looking for funds and sponsors!

Short Project Description
Lady Ada is a sparkling theatre show about the fundamentals of the digital revolution. It is a compelling historical story about a young woman who understood, more than a century before anyone else, that software could make machines universal and make it able to deepen all forms of human thinking. And at the same time the audience will learn some fundamentals of informatics and will learn that the computer can be used in a creative manner.

The background of this project is that we feel an urgency for a lasting curriculum for primary education whereby we take into account the practicability for today’s generation of teachers. CSunplugged is developed especially for that reason and we decided to translate it into Dutch.

Computer Science Unplugged (CSunplugged) consists of two books written by the American computer scientist Mike Fellows and the New Zealander computer scientists Tim Bell and Ian Witten. In CSunplugged you will find 20 activities for primary schools to learn the basics of informatics (binary code, storing data, algorithms, sorting networks, intractability, cryptography etc) without using a computer.

We were impressed by the high level of the activities and the fact that schools can start with computing without having (enough) computers at school was compelling to us. And we know some teachers and parents who feel some reluctance to all these screens they encounter in the young lives of their kids.

With CSunplugged you have the possibility to teach basic knowledge without any screen and with big groups of kids at the same time. We translated the books into Dutch and a donation from Google made it possible to distribute the books to schools for free. But we think we can go one step further in accompanying the teachers as they start with computer education. This is how we came to the idea of a theatre show.  Lady Ada will make working with this material even more accessible and seductive to start with.

Synopsis of the play
We will see a young teenager, behind his computer and into his Minecraft game. He thinks he knows everything about the game and his computer. He is building a city and tries to build a gigantic skyscraper, but he isn’t succeeding. Suddenly a woman in a Victorian costume appears and she helps him to build the best skyscraper ever. They start a dialogue about computing. The woman is Ada Lovelace and she’s from the 19th Century. After some disbelief, the boy understands he doesn’t know a lot about computers and she can teach him some fundamentals of informatics. With practical examples and with help from the audience she explains why it is important to know these fundamentals and how great it is if you can create all your fantasies.

We are striving for the structural incorporation of computational skills in schools. We would like to start at primary schools because we could address the children before they know whether they are into languages or technical stuff, into boy or girl stuff, or like to work with their hands or their heads. We also would like to offer current teachers an accessible guide to get them interested in an easy start with informatics.

The Netherlands do not have enough teachers in computing to reach all (primary) school students. Because we think that programming and computing should be a permanent subject at schools it should be taught by current and existing educators.

We have the experience that many educators do not know and/or dare to start with it, because there is a lack of time, knowledge and/or courage. To close this gap we try to find an ‘alpha’ way (theatre) which will be understood by many teachers, to explain the basic principles of computing.

To gain precious ‘time’ we try to connect to some Common Cores Standards stated by the Dutch government. By telling the story of Ada Lovelace we connect to the Common Core History (of science and computers, Common Core 52). We connect to the Common Core Cultural Orientation (Common Core 54 and 55) by teaching computing in a theatrical way and by seeking interaction with the audience. And it will be clear that knowledge of computing connects to the Common Cores Mathematical understanding and action (Common Cores 23 to 26)[see the Dutch Common Cores at].

Needless to say, we would like to address as many schools, theatres and festivals as possible to reach many children and adults. But we will make sure that a recording of the play will be put online in logical episodes under a CC-BY-NC-SA license so that the audience can watch it again or see it for the first time.

Schools who have seen the show will have, besides a great theatre experience, a marvelous ‘kickstart’ for teaching programming and computing. It is mainly our goal to relieve the teachers of any fear of starting with programming.

CSunplugged is clearly a new way of teaching computing. Different to those impressive ‘education tools’ who set joy and ease above learning. Using theatre about history (industrial revolution, Victorian England, position of women) as a form to teach computational knowledge is innovative. The whole world of education can learn of our experience during the development and implementation of Science Theatre. Teaching through theatre could be very appealing to this youtube-generation.

Our team is broad and has in particular expertise in education, youth theatre, informatics and popular science. During the development process we can cooperate with two different primary schools (Montessorischool De Eilanden and Daltonschool Neptunus both in Amsterdam) for try-outs. Our plan is to develop the show in the second half of 2016 and to start playing in 2017. Besides the funding of the development of the play we already started to research the funding of school touring.

Implementation and afterwards
Our approach relies on two priorities.

  1. With the materials we want that the children work with real knowledge. There is no need to cover it with a pink color to attract girls (Do not “pink it and shrink it”). They might choose pink in their own computing projects, but computing is about their own creativity. That is why materials like CSunplugged, Scratch, Hello Ruby and Minecraft are valuable and helpful.
  2. We intend to develop materials for teachers that they would be able to handle on their own. To reach all students we have to get to them via the teachers. That is the reason that we will offer a workshop “CSunplugged for teachers” to ease the start with computing. And we would need a (manned) website where teachers can ask questions or gather tips and advice for possible following projects.

Relation with other projects
Netherlands: Recently PO-raad, together with SLO and Kennisnet, launched a framework (“leerlijn programmeren”) for CS education in primary school. Most of the activities they suggest are in the unplugged realm. This play and their curriculum could easily reinforce each other.

International: For several years the UK community promoting computing at school recognizes CSunplugged as well as Minecraft as great teaching resources. Raspberry Pi, the $25 dollar computer for learners comes with a special free educational Minecraft installed (cf.  in Whale and Hanlon, Adventures in Minecraft (Wiley 2014)).


Developing this show will cost € 40,000 of which € 5,000 is covered by Dutch Scratchweb Foundation. Included is professional video registration which will be disseminated through the website.

Performances will cost € 1,500 – 2,000 each (depending on distance). We expect schools to pay € 600, which means we need sponsorships of roughly € 1,000 per performance.

For the development we’re looking for 1 to 4 founding sponsors. Performances can be supported by smaller organizations.

If you’re interested in funding or a sponsorship, please contact