The Säjai® Foundation was formed in 2006 by Barb King to “educate and motivate youth ages 6 to 11 to make healthy choices that will serve them for a lifetime.”1 As a Minnesota based nonprofit organization, the foundation works with local communities in educating children to include “healthy eating, physical activity, and outdoor exploration” in their lives.2 The Säjai Foundation is also using these key lifestyle choices to combat childhood obesity.
Säjai (pronounced “saw-zhay”) was a “wise name” given in a mythical dialogue between a Lizard and a Sage plant. Building on the theme of honoring wisdom, the Säjai Foundation offers three programs: Wise Kids, Wise Kids Two, and Wise Kids Outdoors. These after school wellness programs include workbooks, learning activities, and physical activities for elementary-aged youth.3 The Wise Kids Outdoors can also be used in a summer camp setting.
All three programs utilize their “Calories IN = Calories OUT” Energy Balance concept, meaning that energy taken in through food and drink should be balanced with energy expended through physical activity.4 The 9 week lessons are based on a Learn-Do-Play format to reinforce the new healthy lifestyle choices the children are learning.
The Wise Kids Program was selected in 2008 by the National Forum on Children and Nature as one of 30 national model programs for reconnecting children with nature. At this time there were about 50 Wise Kids programs operating in 25 states.5 The following year, grants from the National Recreation Foundation and the National Recreation and Park Association allowed 49 communities to run the Wise Kids program, which brought the program to nearly 3,800 more children.6
In 2009, the Säjai Foundation initiated their first annual Learn-Live-Lead fundraising event to increase awareness of their mission. They also offer teleconferences, webinars, podcasts, and an archive of newsletters.
The Säjai Foundation furthers their mission by partnering with the US Play Coalition, the Northwest Mutual Foundation, Twin Cities in Motion, the General Mills Foundation, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the Three Rivers Park District in Minnesota, and Landscape Structures.7 Barb King, who had founded the Säjai Foundation, had also co-founded Landscape Structures with her husband, Steve King, in 1971.
To recognize communities that are actively creating “Healthier Kids, Healthier Communities, and a Healthier World” through Wise Kids programs, the Säjai Foundation began awarding the Barb King Celebration of Life Award in 2010.8
- 1. “Who We Serve.” Säjai Foundation. < http://sajaifoundation.org/aboutus/whoweserve.html > 27 Feb. 2011.
- 2. “Welcome to the Säjai Foundation!” Säjai Foundation. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/ > 14 Dec. 2010.
- 3. Op.cit., “Who We Serve.”
- 4. “Wise Kids.” Säjai Foundation. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/programspurchaseinfo/wisekids.html > 5 June 2011.
- 5. Säjai Insights. Volume 1, Issue 1. November 2008. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/images/Nov_2008_Newsletter.pdf > 27 May 2011.
- 6. “The NRF/NRPA Grant Programs.” Säjai Insights. Volume 2, Issue 1. November 2009. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/images/Newsletter_Nov._2009.pdf > 5 June 2011.
- 7. “The Gratitude Page.” Säjai Foundation. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/partnersandfriends.html > 27 May 2011.
- 8. “Wise Kids in Action: The Barb King Celebration of Life Award.” Säjai Insight. Volume 3, Issue 1. November 2010. < http://www.sajaifoundation.org/image/Newsletter_Nov_10.pdf > 27 May 2011.