Songwriting Project

“What Can We Do to Make Peace?”

Notes from John Farrell

This song is a “living” piece of art that is intended to grow and change with time. Students from many schools have written their own verses for the song. The first students to write verses with me were Mr. Ken Buescher’s class at Stadley Rough Elementary School in Danbury, Connecticut in the U.S.A.  Since then, classes in Budapest, Hungary; Kiev, Ukraine; Barcelona, Spain; and Brussels, Belgium have all written their own verses to the song. The lyrics here on the web site include some of those written with students at these schools.

The following is a short video about how this project began and shows students from other countries writing and performing their verses:

If you would like to add new verses to this growing song follow the directions below. You may wish to start by listening to the song. You can do so by playing the CD “Building Bridges: Promoting Respect and Understanding” or click on the link below:

"What Can We Do to Make Peace?"

Click here for printer-friendly lyrics to "What Can We Do to Make Peace?"

Brainstorm and Discuss “Peace”

  • Talk with students about the concept of “Peace.” Ask them to say what the word means to them.
  • Make a brainstorming chart or charts. Record the student’s ideas or words they use during the discussion. To start with, record the words they use to describe what peace means to them.  As the discussion continues into different types of peace continue recording their ideas.
  • To guide the discussion ask them to think about peace in three different categories:

Peace Within Yourself
Ask students to think about the personal behaviors, activities and situations that make them feel peaceful. These should be things they do by themselves. For some people it is sitting quietly; for others it is painting, walking, praying, reading, writing, gardening, or singing. There are not any “right” or “wrong” answers. The purpose of the activity is for each person to think about what makes them feel safe, relaxed, calm, quiet, or peaceful.

Peace in Your Family and Community
Ask students to discuss and think about what “having peace” means in their families, in school, and in their communities. Talk about how attitudes, actions, and understandings can help people get along with each other.

World Peace
Ask students to offer their opinions about World Peace. Are there actions that we can take as individuals and groups that can have an effect on bringing more peace into our world?  What can we do to help others who live far away?

  • Ask students if they think that we can help “make” peace.
  • As you brainstorm record their ideas about what we can do to make peace. You can organize the brainstorming into the three categories discussed – (Ourselves / Our Families and Communities / Our World) or you can lump all the ideas together.
  • The actual songwriting can be done as a large group, in smaller groups, with a partner, or individually. Adapt the activity so that it best suits your class. It is recommended that the first new verse be done as a group to model the process. If you follow the suggestions below it will help you write your new verse.

Writing New Verses

  • Do one of the following; Copy the lyrics page and give one to each student; Write the lyrics on a chart or on the board; or use a projector to everyone can see the lyrics.
  • Listen to the recording a few times and sing along with the lyrics. The chorus and melody will remain the same as they are on the recording and on the sheet music. You will write your own “new”verses.
  • Start by choosing one idea from the brainstorming charts. Start the new verse with the words “We can…..”  An example is: We can be kind to others
  • Choose a second line, also starting with “We can….” Continue adding lines until you have eight lines that fit with the music on the recording.
  • There is a rhyming pattern to the verses on the recording. The 4th line rhymes with the 2nd line and the 8th line rhymes with the 6th line. In other words the even lines all rhyme. You DO NOT have to have rhyming lines. It is more important that the phrases work well together rhythmically. An example of a four line part that doesn’t rhyme is:
We can help on the school bus
We can do what we’re asked
We can talk quietly at lunch time
We can clean up our tables

Share and Perform What You Have Created

  • After you have completed writing new verses, perform them for another class, your families, or the whole school. The sheet music for the song can be downloaded and printed via the following link:
  • Ask your music teacher or someone that plays piano or guitar to accompany you as you sing “your” version of the song. If you can’t find an accompanist sing the song without accompaniment or sing along with the recording singing your new words to the instrumental section of the recording.
  • Make an audio or video recording of your performance and submit it to the “Bridges of Peace and Hope” web site so others can see and hear what you have created.

Art Activity

  • Illustrate your new verses for the song “What Can We Do to Make Peace?” Make a book from your illustrations and verses.
  • Create a “What Can We Do to Make Peace?” advertising campaign designing posters and slogans to promote peace in your school.

Social Studies Extension

  • Write the names below on the board. Tell students that each of these individuals worked to make the lives of others more peaceful. Some are deceased. Others are alive and continuing to work for peace today. Add names that you would like to include on this list of “Peacemakers.”
Mahatma Gandhi Martin Luther King Dorothy Day
Mother Teresa George Mitchell Dalai Lama
Colonel Mark Cook Jeanette Rankin Vedran Smailovic
Archbishop Desmond Tutu Colman McCarthy Maya Angelou
Sister Helen Prejean Dr. Ann Hines Shirin Ebadi
Mairead Corrigan Maguire Jane Goodall Wangari Maathai
  • If some of the names are unfamiliar ask students to do research and share what they learn. Dr. Ann Hines (USA) and Colonel Mark Cook (UK) were the first two recipients of the annual “Bridges of Peace and Hope Heroes Award.”

Share Your Ideas About This Project

To let us know how you used this project and to share your work and ideas please email John Farrell at With your permission we will post your writing, artwork and recordings on the site so others can appreciate them too.