Royal Farms Outdoor Classroom is Officially Here!

The Royal Farms outdoor classroom and play space is nearly finished and we are getting ready to officially unveil it on Friday June 11 at 9am!  Please join us!

In addition to the unveiling we will be burying a 2021 time capsule complete with items that reflect this current strange time.  Feel free to suggest or bring items – cicada shells? face mask?  hand sanitizer?  craft project?  We are open to all ideas!

Can’t wait to play outside in this gorgeous new space that was made possible by Royal Farms and you, our community and neighbors!  And many many thanks to International Landscaping and Design for the creation of the space.  

Royal Farms donates funds for new outdoor classroom at HEMS

Royal Farms has donated $20,000 to Hampden Elementary and Middle School #55 (HEMS) to fund a new state of the art outdoor classroom and nature playground area. 

The new classroom and nature playground will feature a natural Maryland theme and will include permanent amphitheater seating for students, natural balance and climbing equipment, and native plants. The project is being led by International Landscaping and Design, a local Hampden-based company, and construction is slated to begin February 2021.

“In the midst of a pandemic that is reshaping education, we are excited to offer the students at HEMS a bright spot – an outdoor classroom space in partnership with Royal Farms.” – Dr. Katrina Foster, HEMS #55 Principal

“Royal Farms home office is in Hampden, so its special to our company that we are able to fund this outdoor classroom and nature space for the children in the community here. We know that this new space will enhance the students’ educational experience at Hampden Elementary and Middle School.” – John Kemp, CEO of Royal Farms.

Here is a sneak peak at the design. Groundbreaking coming soon! Stay tuned.

Donate your P-EBT benefit to Baltimore City Families!

Dear families and neighbors, 

As you may have heard, every student enrolled in Baltimore City Public Schools will be receiving a non-transferable EBT card for $330 in the next few weeks.  For those families who are not in need of the extra funds to pay for food, please consider donating all or some of the funds you would have spent (i.e. the amount that is offset by the EBT funds you will get) to an organization helping to support food-insecure families.  See below for information on the program and on donating to the Fund for Educational Excellence, or check out their website:

Many thanks for all of your generosity in the past and for continuing to support the students and families of Baltimore.


Friends of Hampden School #55

2019-2020 Year in Review

2020 has certainly been a year for the record books. But it hasn’t been all bad! Thanks to your generous support, Friends of Hampden has been able to accomplish big things this school year. Check out our year in review!

Playground Repairs

We are incredibly proud to announce the completion of our largest ever project!  Our much loved playground needed a LOT of TLC to make it safe and accessible again. Thanks to many contributions from you, our community, and a generous grant from Johns Hopkins University we have been able to fund repairs and replace the deteriorated surface (coming early July).  Here is a partial list of updates to the playground:

  • Replace the missing climbing ropes
  • Replace the missing circular monkey bar
  • Add a new steering wheel
  • Add a new preschool slide
  • Tighten all bolts for safety
  • Install new rubberized mulch surfacing 

We cannot wait to see how much your little ones love the new additions when playgrounds open again! 

Teacher Appreciation

The teachers at Hampden Elementary/Middle School are the best of the best. Friends of Hampden partnered with the PTO to make sure that all of our teachers received a gift card to the Charmery for Teacher Appreciation Week in May.

Official Maryland Green School Designation

As of June 1, 2020, Hampden Elementary/Middle School is an officially designated Maryland Green School! Friends of Hampden has been actively involved in working with the Green Team over the past two years to make this a reality.  We are happy to say that our fundraising team secured three grants for outdoor and indoor greening projects as part of this effort.  We are so proud of the students, teachers, and community members who worked together to achieve such an amazing accomplishment! 

Volunteers Needed! 

Help Hampden stay beautiful and green!  We’ve had volunteers from Friends of Hampden stopping by the school throughout the closure for maintenance on our gardens. We’d love some help with weeding and general garden maintenance. If you have a green thumb (or even if you don’t!) and some time to spare, come out as a family one weekend this summer and help keep our gardens beautiful! Sign up here

What should our next project be?

We want to hear from you! What are you hoping to see at the school? Help us choose our next project(s)!  (If you have another idea for a new project please email us at

Without all of us, there are none of us.

At Friends of Hampden, we fully support the voices and needs of all students and families of Hampden Elementary/Middle School #55. While educational equity has always been a core belief of our organization, we realize that we can, and should, do better to provide a more inclusive and equitable organization to represent the needs of all of our families. A diverse school community alone is not enough. In our efforts to create a truly inclusive organization: one where all student families are welcomed and supported, and where their faces, experiences, and voices are reflected and valued, we are actively searching to add Black and NBPOC to our board. If you, or anyone you know is interested in joining the board of Friends of Hampden, please contact us at

HEMS Green Team plans celebration

Save the date! HEMS is organizing a cleanup event on April 12th in celebration of Earth Day.

“We really want to make this Earth Day project a major event, and so we hope the local community will be involved alongside the students and teachers,” says Claire McNamara, second grade teacher at HEMS and a member of the school’s Green Team. “The event will include a cleanup of the schoolyard and caring for and planting around the space. It’s a great opportunity to bring the school and community members together to make the space cleaner and greener.”

HEMS has been increasing its focus on green issues and environmental education in recent years. Currently, HEMS is in the process of applying to become an officially designated Maryland Green School.

As the school works to reclaim and clean up the back courtyard area, it is looking for people with expertise in gardens (especially shade gardens) to advise and help with designing and caring for the space.  

Contact the school at 410-396-6004 for more information.

FOH awards classroom grants for teachers

In February, Friends of Hampden #55 (FOH) solicited small grant applications—a maximum of $500 each—from teachers at Hampden Elementary/Middle School (HEMS). We are thrilled to report that we have awarded nearly $2,000 across six projects for this award period. Funded projects include:

  • A classroom garden
  • New classroom supplies such as clip boards, headphones, and chairs (multiple awards)
  • Interactive textbooks for Special Education students and English language learners
  • VEX Robotix kits for learning engineering design processes

Thank you to all the teachers who submitted applications this year. And many thanksto all FOH donors who make these projects possible and enhance our students’ learning experiences.

If you would like to support these types of projects at HEMS, please consider making a donation today!

Living Green Wall added to HEMS

Through grant funding from FOH and the Hampden Community Council , a green wall has been added to HEMS! From the WBAL-TV piece on this installation:

It’s a literal green wall of plants in full view of students and staff members.

It’s not what some would expect to see when walking into a school building, but it’s a project that’s good for the environment and learning at Hampden Elementary-Middle School.

“Like, you walk in through the doors and then all of a sudden, you see this, like, bright green masterpiece,” Hampden Elementary-Middle School student Zion Parran said.

A masterpiece with a purpose: to help clean the air throughout the school building. It’s a project that’s been more than a year in the making. It’s the brainchild of Ray Greenstreet, president of Greenstreet-Greenwalls.

“We are actually pulling in the dirty air in up there from that fan, and it’s sucking the air into the wall and there’s a double panel wall. It looks like siding on your home and we pressurize that wall. And we bring fresh water in from the faucet and it fills the wall,” Greenstreet said. “NASA discovered that active plants through the root zone or rising sphere, the plants actually breakdowns VOCs — volatile organic compounds.”

The greenwall is often used as a teachable moment for students who are eager to show it off.

“The greenwall will help our school environment by producing clean air and increasing the health of our environment,” student Emily Laricci said.

“We hope that the plants that we grow and give away will spread happiness throughout our community,” student Joseph James said.

Please click here to read the full article.

FOH wins $15k grant from Johns Hopkins to replace Hampden Elementary School playground

We have great news! The Johns Hopkins Neighborhood Fund has awarded us a $15,000 grant for the Hampden Elementary School playground replacement project! With this grant and funds pledged by the Friends of Hampden and other sources, we now have around $40,000 in our playground account.

Initial estimates for resurfacing the play area and replacing the equipment total approximately $75,000 – $170,000 (depending on many factors such as demolition, labor, and design). Our organization is actively seeking additional private and corporate donors, as well as further grant funds, for the project.

In addition, we are currently looking for community members to join the playground committee to help steer this project to completion. Please contact us at to get involved!

Here is some background on the playground project: Daily use of the current playground by students and the community over the past 12 years has taken its toll on the existing equipment and play surface. It may not be apparent at first glance, but a growing list of health and safety concerns exists, including:

  • Broken and missing pieces of the equipment that have resulted in several injuries to date
  • Standing water around and under the eroding play surface that presents potential health hazards such as mosquito larvae and bacteria growth
  • Equipment that does not serve the needs and diverse abilities of all Hampden #55 students

Preliminary plans for the new playground include:

  • State-of-the-art equipment, designed for 21st century play
  • Rubberized surface and drainage remediation
  • Inclusive design elements to serve all ages and abilities

Click here to donate and help us reach our goal! To get involved in fundraising efforts or to host an event to benefit the cause, please contact us at

FOH approves small grant applications for Hampden #55 teachers

Friends of Hampden #55 solicited small grant applications, for a maximum of $500 each, from teachers at Hampden Elementary/Middle School in February. We are happy to report that we have evaluated the applications and will be distributing nearly $2000 across six projects including:

  • Creating a classroom garden (Kindergarten)
  • New classroom supplies including clip boards, headphones, and chairs
  • Interactive textbooks for Special Education students and English language learner
  • VEX Robotix kits for learning engineering design processes

Thank you to all the teachers who submitted applications this year! And thanks to all the parents whose donations make these projects possible!

If you would like to support your local public school, please consider making a donation today!