Statehood for Puerto Rico? You Decide!

Statehood for Puerto Rico? You Decide!
Ellen Wilson: Religion, Social Issues and Reform

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: Three to five class periods


On Valentine's Day in 1912, nine months before Woodrow Wilson was elected to the Presidency, Arizona became the 48th and final continental U.S. state.  In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states.  Now there is an effort to bring Puerto Rico into the Union as the 51st state.  Where do YOU stand on the matter?


Students who participate in this activity will learn about the legal status of territories, commonwealths, and other jurisdictions, as well as about the process of moving from this kind of status to statehood.  Students will also have an opportunity to debate the issue of Puerto Rican statehood.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet Access to print resources Computer programs such as PowerPoint (optional)


1.  Using the websites listed below under "Territories and States," ask students to research the many and varied designations by which parts of the United States have previously been known.  What is the status of each with respect to the United States as a whole?

2.  Divide students into five groups.  Each group should use the remaining websites, as well as others that they find themselves, and print materials, to research the following:

  • What is the background on the question of statehood for Puerto Rico?
  • How is the Puerto Rican experience similar and/or different from that of other territories that have become states?
  • What are some reasons in favor of statehood for Puerto Rico?
  • What are some reasons against statehood for Puerto Rico?
  • What kinds of individuals or groups are on each side?  Do they have "hidden agendas" that might explain their positions?

3.  Students should share their research, either by reporting or by producing a poster or PowerPoint presentation.

4.  When the research is completed, engage students in a formal deliberation on the question of statehood for Puerto Rico.  Take a vote of the entire class.

Extending the Lesson:

Students may want to contact their senators and representatives in the U.S. Congress with their ideas on the matter of Puerto Rican statehood.  Students may find their senators and representatives at: 

Sources & Resources:



This lesson was designed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.