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About the garden

The Academy is located in the historic and charming village of Comfort, Texas, about 45 minutes from San Antonio (SAT is the most convenient airport) and 1 ½ hours from Austin.

The Dinah Zike Academy STEAM garden is located 2 blocks from the Dinah Zike Academy, behind and around a 100 year-old home which is currently a store called Simply Comfort.

If the store is open, the gardens are open to the public.

Store hours are usually 10-5 Wednesday to Saturday, with shorter hours on Sundays (12-5).

School groups, garden clubs, native plant organizations, master gardeners, plein air painting classes, photography classes, and others arrange to visit throughout the year. 

TEA accredited teacher-education classes held at the Dinah Zike Academy also use the gardens for instructional purposes.  (210) 698-0123 LVM

The gardens have been in development for over 10 years. We started with a few nectar plants in pots and we have expanded to nearly ½ acre. We plant more nectar plants and host plants each year. Many of these we have propagated ourselves to teach sexual and asexual reproduction.

The gardens are contiguous to Dinah’s personal gardens and greenhouse.  This gives twice as much space for the pollinators to find food. We plant extra host plants on the private side of the garden so the caterpillars are safer when they go on “walk about” to find a location to form a chrysalis before entering the pupa stage.

Dinah’s gardens can be viewed from the STEAM gardens.


Examples of host plants with eggs, larva, pupa are also planted in the main STEAM garden. Of course, these life cycles are visible seasonally. Adult pollinators move constantly over the acre of vegetation in the middle of town.



The Dinah Zike Academy is a recognized provider of continuing professional education (CPE) for the State of Texas (Provider # 501-536). Our official provider name is Dinah-Might Adventures, LP. This designation is often recognized by education agencies in other states as well.

Dinah established this training facility in the beautiful and historic Texas Hill Country in 2005 with the first institutes offered in 2006. We began with a bang, with a group from San Diego including Dr. Doug Fisher and Dr. Nancy Frey of San Diego State University, and teachers from their newly founded charter school, Health Sciences High & Middle College. Our Academy building itself is unique, having served in the past as a wool warehouse, silent movie theatre, map company, engineering firm, and jewelry repair facility, among other things.

We offer two types of sessions at the Academy: Our jam-packed 2 ½ day core immersion institutes, requiring no prior experience with Foldables and our shorter FOCUS sessions, which are designed for experienced Zikers (if you don’t know what a Ziker is, these are probably not the best sessions for you). Most courses are offered during the summer, though special sessions may be booked for your group of 10-15 educators at almost anytime of year.

Features of the ever-evolving Academy include: Large auditorium area, multiple classroom and breakout spaces, commercial kitchen, computer work areas with high-speed internet access, ample workspaces and materials, extensive displays of Dinah’s Foldables by content area, publishing center models, and a research and reference library.

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 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.

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.



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