Dinah is a pioneer in the development and implementation of three-dimensional, kinesthetic teaching aids. Over the last 45+ years, Dinah has invented hundreds of graphic organizers and educational manipulatives that are used nationally and internationally as instructional strategies by teachers, educational publishing companies, universities, and curriculum consultants. Dinah is noted for taking complicated data and turning it into a visual and kinesthetic experience while integrating communication skills. It has been estimated that over 85% of the students in the United States use something that Dinah has invented or designed at some point in their K-12 education experience either as a supplemental teacher-presented activity or as a feature in their textbook.
Besides appearing in her personal publications, Dinah’s Foldables are featured exclusively in McGraw-Hill textbooks in the following content areas: science, math, social studies, language arts, and health. Dinah’s Foldables were originally referred to as “folded books” and later “3-D graphic organizers” until the term Foldables was coined in 2000. Foldable presentations are now commonly featured sessions at state and national educational conferences and Foldable teacher training sessions are available at the Dinah Zike Academy (a Texas Education Agency approved facility).
Dinah first started designing and using paper-based manipulatives when she was in sixth grade. Originally, she used them as study aids to help her organize her class notes in junior high, and later in high school and college. She discovered they also worked as study aids for the students she tutored during high school and it was at this time that she first referred to her basic folds as being a hamburger fold or a hotdog fold. Later, to earn money for college, Dinah worked with students with severe learning disabilities and she added more names for the folds of the manipulatives she used to help her "students" learn--that's when the terms taco, burrito, pyramid, and shutterfold gained new meaning!She is frequently referred to as the “hamburger and hotdog” lady.
After graduating Summa Cum Laude from Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi, Texas, Dinah taught school for ten years, while continuing to design and invent teaching methods and strategies. It was difficult for her to leave the classroom, but she enjoyed teaching teachers, and she began a crusade to give teachers alternatives to duplicated materials by introducing them to her student-made, student-directed writing activities and projects. With the help of thousands of excited, creative teachers who attended these early presentations, Dinah's three-dimensional graphic organizers and her folding terms began to spread across the U.S. and other countries too!
After years of this nonstop schedule, Dinah started her own publishing company in 1984, producing science thematic units and social studies materials related to the history of her home state of Texas. In 1986, she wrote her first book consisting entirely of her folds and 3-D graphic organizers: Dinah Zike's Big Book of Books and Activities. (Note that her folded manipulatives were still being called “books” at this time instead of Foldables.) This photocopied book was given away in many of her early sessions until it was copyrighted and professionally printed in the 1990s.
In the years since, she has continued to design, publish, and teach using her three-dimensional graphic organizers, which have grown in popularity because teachers who use them successfully share them with others.
Dinah grew up on her family’s farm just outside the city limits of Austin, Texas.There was a gravel pit on the property where gravel, marine invertebrates, and Austin Chalk were deposited by the deep inland sea that covered the area in the late Cretaceous Period. Dinah’s mother had a collection of marine fossils she had found through the years, and this influenced Dinah’s lifelong love of paleontology. With the name Dinah she began to search for dinosaurs. She didn’t find a dinosaur fossil on the farm, but she did cut skeletons out of poster board. Between the ages of 10 and 15, Dinah researched, designed, and cut small models of dinosaur skeletons before progressing to large versions made out of cardboard that she displayed in her classroom as a young teacher. Dinah’s early Tyrannosaurus rex, poster board template became the prototype for the modern balsawood puzzle-models seen today. Her original skeleton rested on its tail as it was not known at that time that T-rex walked with its backbone nearly parallel to the ground to provide a head-tail counterbalance.
1990 Dinosaur Interdisciplinary Units: Dinah presented teacher-training sessions in Florida on how to use dinosaurs as the basis for an in depth, interdisciplinary thematic unit and was approached by representatives of the Dinosaur Society, and in 1991 became the first Educational Curriculum Director for the Dinosaur Society (of America), newly formed by science author, Don Lessem.
1992 Universal Studios: Don Lessem, Dinah Zike, and other representatives of the Dinosaur Society visited Universal Studios and Amblin Entertainment to discuss the concurrent promotion of the Dinosaur Society and the first Jurassic Park movie.
Spring 1993: A special edition, promotional copy of the Dino Times newspaper was distributed at movie theaters across America to promote the upcoming Jurassic Park Movie (released June 11, 1993) and the new Dinosaur Society. In the newspaper segment called Dinah’s Dinos, instructions were given on how to make a Jurassic Park Mobile using Dinah’s pyramid fold.
Fall 1993 AMNH: The Dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, American Museum of Natural History dinosaur day, Dinosaur Hall; Dinah taught multiple groups of children visiting the museum how to make the pyramid mobile featured in the Dino Times Jurassic Park promotional newspaper.
1994 Patagonia: Don Lessem, Dinah Zike, and Ignacio Salas-Humara visited Dr. Rudolfo Coria, paleontologist at the Museo Carmen Funes in Plaza Huincul in Neuquen Province, northern Patagonia, to visit the dig site of Argentinosaurus, a Late Cretaceous titanosaur sauropod. At the time, this was the smallest natural history museum in the world with remains of the largest land animal ever discovered. The right fibula (lower leg bone)1.55 m long (61 inches) was on display. Dr. Philip Currie , the world-renowned Canadian paleontologist, was also visiting at this time to review theropod fossils found in the area.
March 24-26, 1994, Dino Fest: Dept. of Geology School of Science, Indiana and Purdue Universities; Dinah presented on the use of graphic organizers to teach basic paleontology concepts to children and adults. Among the audience were some of the world’s top paleontologists, including Jack Horner, Philip Currie, Paul Sereno, John Ostrom, and Dale Russell.
1997 Book Award: Dinah’s children’s book and activity packet, The Search for T.rex, which included a wooden dinosaur skeleton puzzle, won a Parenting Award as part of The Time Twister ChroniclesTM Dinah developed for Learning Resources.
1998 Calendar: Dinah Zike and her husband, Ignacio Salas-Humara, wrote and designed a Dinosaur a Day Page-a-Day Calendar published by Landmark Calendars, The At a Glance Group.
2005 Met South American paleontologists and scientists who were featured in the National Geographic Magazine Article New Dinosaur Species Discovered in Argentina, February 23, 2005 at the Natural History Museum in Houston.
2011 Flaming Cliffs, Gobi Desert, Mongolia visit. Site of Roy Chapman Andrews 1920 visit and first discovery of dinosaur eggs, with Oviraptor, and Protoceratops skeletons nearby.
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- September 1, 2006: Dinah was diagnosed with HER2+ invasive breast cancer
- September 20, 2006: Mastectomy
- October 19, 2006: started chemotherapy (Adriamycin and Taxotere)
- January 2007: added the drug Herceptin to chemotherapy treatment
- March 2007: finished chemotherapy, continued Herceptin
- May 2007: started 6 weeks of radiation treatments
- Summer 2007: lymphedema treatment for left arm and hand
- January 2008: finished Herceptin
Dinah is grateful each day to be alive and she attributes her survival to the prayers and support of family, friends, and educators, and to the drug Herceptin which had been newly approved for use as an adjuvant treatment of early stage HER2+ node positive breast cancer when she started treatment. She has experienced residual side effects including tremors, mild heart damage, and increased susceptibility to illness. Dinah is still available for presentations, but she has national trainers who work with thousands of teachers across the country, too.
- Summer 2009: traveled to Galapagos on a research vessel
After breast cancer, Dinah has less energy than she used to, and the role of the Dinah Zike Academy, a Trainer of Trainers Institute, gained importance. Though she may lack energy, she does not lack ideas, and continues to develop materials to enhance teaching and learning.