Assessments show that students often fail to connect concepts and details presented in the classroom to specific plant species in nature. A semester-long project, called the plant profile, has students building a database of information concerning the biology of a single plant species from the local flora. Students use web-based and library resources, along with lecture material, to gather information or make predictions about the biology of the whole plant. The database is built through a series of assignments that coincide with topics addressed in class. Topics include plant classification, life history, photosynthesis (pathway, pigments, rate), anatomy (root and shoot structures), morphology, genetics (chromosome number, genome size), reproduction (floral formula, pollination syndrome, dispersal mechanisms), and ecology (habitat, relative resource requirements). A final profile serves as an organizational framework that reviews and anchors relevant details of the course. Through student surveys and feedback from the past eight semesters, the plant profile project was found to enhance many aspects of the teaching-learning process. Profiles enhanced learning by engaging students to actively reconstruct concepts and patterns in relation to a plant that they have experienced. From a teaching perspective, profile assignments served as an excellent assessment tool that readily exposed a student's lack of understanding or misconceptions. The project created a classroom of student "experts," which increased the quality and quantity of student to student, and student to teacher interactions. The project is "phenotypically plastic," or easily modified to match course content and meet teacher goals.

Key words: teaching pedagogy, whole plant biology