School NewsOct 6, 2020

updated Oct 6, 2020

New Documentary has MHS Ties

Filmmaker Aaron Kalischer-Coggins produces a new documentary on the Housatonic River

(Contributed by Aaron Kalischer-Coggins)

A recently released documentary shines light on the plight of the Housatonic River — and has a few Miss Hall School ties to boot.

“The River Guards,” a documentary by Filmmaker Aaron Kalischer-Coggins, tells the story of the activists who have been fighting for more than 30 years on behalf of the river, which borders the MHS campus. The 21-minute documentary is available via Aaron’s website,, and has been featured in The Berkshire Eagle.

Aaron is the son of MHS Director of Weekend Activities, Chinese Teacher, and International Student Advisor Tanya Kalischer and her husband, Chris Coggins, and he is the grandson of former Dance and Drama Teacher Angela Kalischer and the late photographer Clemens Kalischer, who captured student yearbook photos and images of MHS campus life from 1958 until the mid 1970s. (Aaron also lived in Witherspoon for nine years, until he was 11 years old!)

Aaron recently met with 10th grade Horizons students, who watched the documentary and as part of their Term 1 “Place Mapping” work and place-based learning. They peppered him with questions about filmmaking, process, and the content of the film, taking away inspiration about digging up stories of place and some great advice, especially in terms of finding collaborators for their initiatives.

“I just thought I might be able to do a film that would bring [the story] to a different audience,” Aaron, a Washington, D.C.-based documentary filmmaker, told The Eagle. “I just want people to be educated about it.”

The film’s release comes as the Environmental Protection Agency finalizes plans to clean the Housatonic of PCB pollution from General Electric Co.’s former manufacturing plant just upstream from the Miss Hall’s campus.

And, the project includes another MHS tie. Former Campus Services team member Dave Gibbs, and his wife Gayle, are in the film. Dave and Gayle live in one of the neighborhoods that was contaminated with PCBs, and Dave has long served on the Board of the Housatonic River Initiative, a coalition fighting since 1992 for the river’s cleanup. In the documentary, Dave takes Aaron on a “toxic tour,” of contaminated sites.

Plans are in the works to show the documentary to MHS students and for Aaron to meet (virtually) with them, potentially through Horizons programming.

In the meantime, we encourage you to check out the film!