For this LHS teacher, it’s all about chemistry

LINDEN, NJ — A teacher in Linden has created a fun and exciting way to teach his class the concepts of chemistry.

Sean Bannon, a chemistry and forensics teacher at Linden High School, has brought the dating game into his 10-grade classroom, and for these students, it was love at first sight.

Bannon said that he had seen the idea online from another teacher, and he recalled that it was a science class taught in the context of speed dating.

“I vaguely remembered what they did but had to modify it so that it fit what I was looking for,” Bannon told LocalSource in an email Jan. 30. “I’m always looking for activities that seem different and get the students excited about chemistry. I wanted something that would get kids moving and talking to other students but in a unique format. They were able to take ownership of the lesson.

It gave them a confidence boost because they were not alone. There was someone there across from them. Teens date, so why not do it with compounds? It’s a win-win.”

According to Bannon, ​students were each given an index card with either a positive or negative ion on it. Pairs of desks in the classroom were then arranged facing each other and set up in two columns. All of the positive ions and negative ions sat across from each other. Working together, the students had to figure out how their two ions would combine to form an ionic compound. Each pair would then write down their ions, the formula and the name of the compound that they formed.

After about two minutes, said Bannon, the students with positive ions would rotate to the desk next to them.

“This meant that they had a new partner and different pair of ions,” Bannon said. “The new pair of students would work together and communicate to get the right answer. Periodically, I would have the students switch cards for more practice. This continued until the students rotated back to their original seat.”

Bannon said that when he first mentioned the speed dating activity to his students, the idea was met with some skepticism.

“I had a few skeptical looks and comments,” Bannon said. “I think they knew what speed dating was in real life, but this was the first time that they had done it in school. After explaining the steps and doing a practice round, the students picked up the lesson quickly. We had been practicing with writing chemical formulas and naming compounds earlier so it wasn’t a new concept, but each student did very well in talking with their partners and coming up with their answers rather than always asking the teacher for help.”

​Melanie Churampi, a student in Bannon’s class who played the role of a negative ion, said that the speed-dating context of the class helped her have a better understanding of the lesson. “It was a different way of learning science and it made it fun and more interesting,” Churampi said. “I liked this speed dating lesson because it was something different, educational and fun. Who dates in science class? You put a fun name and make it a game — who wouldn’t like it?

Especially in chemistry, that is hard to start with, but this made it more interesting. I love this class.”
Churampi said that students pretended that they were on dates at a restaurant and ordering dinner, using the menu as their formulas.
Student Katie Jean Baptiste told LocalSource that she played
a positive ion.
“I was the positive on our special date,” Jean Baptiste said. “I would say that the speed dating helped me learn the concept, especially since we had a test the next day. This was not the ordinary way of learning and that is why I like to come to class. I never know what we are going to do or how he is going to the lesson.”

The fact that this was a date without the usual pressure was also part of the fun.
“What I enjoyed about it would be that it was just like a regular date but a lot faster,” Jean Baptiste said. “There was no pressure like a real date, and you can talk science — there was something to talk about. If you did not like the date, you were moving around. See you later, compound.”

It was also a way to get to know people.
“When we would go around, we would really talk to the people like we were on a date,” she said. “We spoke about science and had some time for our own chit chat. I knew everyone in class but I didn’t really talk to them. It was nice to talk people who I wouldn’t every day. Next time, we need snacks to munch on.”

​Thomas Guzman said he played the positive role in the relationship.
“I was a positive ion with some swag,” Guzman told LocalSource. “I did get a better understanding of our chemistry lesson because it taught us what we need to do and how we work together to become stable. We had to work together to form our ions and write the formulas down.”

Guzman said he enjoyed the lesson because it was so unconventional.
“I honestly like this lesson because it is different,” Guzman said. “This class is different. It is always something different — always a surprise. I like that. Makes it fun to learn chemistry. I also had the opportunity to speak to people who I usually don’t, other than a ‘hi.’ I made some new friends. This was fun and a great experience. It is always a great experience in this class. Mr. Bannon keeps us on our toes.”

Guzman recalled a funny moment was when he heard one of his classmates say that he was going to order something from the dollar menu while pretending to be on a date.

“I heard my classmates pretending to be on dates, offering to buy dinner or dessert,” Guzman said. “You felt at ease to be yourself and enjoy the lesson. We need to have food next time. We are teenagers and are always hungry — even if we are pretending to compounds.”

Bannon said there were definitely a few funny stares, lots of giggles and questioning from students about what they were getting themselves into.
“I had their attention,” Bannon aid. “They became silent. I dragged it out, made them really curious about dating ionic compounds.”

Bannon shared some of his humorous banter from the class.
“Long walks on the beach just aren’t the same without that special compound. Lucky for you, that special ion is out there — the one that can help you out on your road to becoming part of a happy, stable bonding relationship,” he said.

“It’s nice to see teenagers on the edge of their seats, eyes wide open during chemistry class. Some changed their voices and made the formula sound very cool. They were proud to get into the concept of naming compounds and were learning about formulas. This was an innovative and intriguing way to keep a teenager’s attention. Some of them have not had many opportunities to speak with others in the class, so this was a great way to break the ice. Many were amazed the time went by so fast. Others wanted to do it again with something else in chemistry. They enjoyed moving around and talking to face to face, watching facial expressions, and noticed new shades of eyeshadow. This was a great learning experience all around.”