School of Rot: Decomposition & Composting With Annie Novak - Atlas Obscura Experiences

School of Rot: Decomposition & Composting With Annie Novak

3 sessions
$205 per person
Up to 30 people
See Dates
$205 per person
$205 per person
See Dates
What We’ll Do

In this three-part seminar, explore the process of decomposition—from your compost bin to the everyday, life-sustaining breakdowns in the world around you. 

Course Description

For most living things, the journey of life begins or ends with rot. In this course, we’ll break down the breakdown of everything from decaying leaves on the forest floor to the forgotten molding fruit at the back of the fridge. Join Annie Novak for a dive into the science of decomposition, studying the ecological fundamentals of the process and exploring fungal, bacterial, and insect-driven compost hands-on—with ample opportunity for personal science experiments along the way. We’ll also zoom out, looking at the transformation of soils and the basics of composting toilets, green burials, and other innovations in sustainability. You’ll leave this course not only with a deeper understanding of how things break down, but also techniques and tips for your own composting endeavors and an appreciation for the generative, universal power of all the everyday rotting happening around you.

Syllabus At A Glance

There are three total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours.

Fall Section A: Meets Mondays beginning October 18.

Session 1 (Monday, 10/18, 6:30-8:00 PM ET): Compost Ecology: Who's who in decomposition

Session 2 (Monday, 10/25, 6:30-8:00 PM ET ): Composting at Home: From food waste to soil care

Session 3 (Monday, 11/1, 6:30-8:00 PM ET ): Composting in the World: Sustainable applications and technologies

Fall Section B: Meets Wednesdays beginning October 27.

Session 1 (Wednesday, 10/27, 6:30–8:00 PM ET): Compost Ecology: Who's who in decomposition

Session 2 (Wednesday, 11/3, 6:30–8:00 PM ET ): Composting at Home: From food waste to soil care

Session 3 (Wednesday, 11/10, 6:30–8:00 PM ET ): Composting in the World: Sustainable applications and technologies

Between Sessions

Outside of class, students will have the opportunity to further explore decomposition with hands-on assignments, such as building out a worm bin or actively decomposing a slice of bread. Exploring outdoor decomposition and noting rot in the world between sessions is encouraged.

Course Materials

  • Compostable materials (e.g. a banana or slice of bread)
  • Optional: tools needed to make a worm bin (a plastic container, newspaper)


Pricing Options

If you are unable to pay the ticket price for this course, a limited number of no-pay spots are available to increase accessibility for students, regardless of their economic situation. Please note that this option is first-come, first-served, and reserved for those who would not otherwise be able to take this course. To learn more about our approach to pricing, including no-pay options, please visit our FAQ page.

Atlas Obscura Online Courses

Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 25 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed via a recording that will be shared within 72 hours after each session airs. Class recordings for lecture series will be available with a temporary password for up to two weeks following the final session of the course.

To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit

For answers to commonly asked questions, check out our FAQ page here

Where We’ll Be

Once registered, you’ll receive a confirmation email from Eventbrite that will provide access to the class meeting. Please save the confirmation email as you’ll use it to access your course via Zoom on each scheduled date and time.

About Your Instructor
Annie Novak
Annie Novak

Annie Novak is the founder and director of Growing Chefs, field-to-fork food education program; the Manager of the Edible Academy at the New York Botanical Garden, and co-founder and farmer of Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn in partnership with Goode Green and Broadway Stages. She is the author of The Rooftop Growing Guide: How to Transform Your Roof into a Garden or Farm, published by Ten Speed Press. 

A passionate educator, Annie teaches locally & nationally, and has spoken at conferences around the country on the connections between people, food and ecology, and the benefits of urban agriculture.

Photo credit: Jackie Snow

What Else You Should Know

This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that meets over Zoom. Students may be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.

In most cases, instructors will use Google Classroom to communicate with students outside of class. While students aren’t required to use Google Classroom, instructors will be using this platform to post resources, discussion questions, and assignments, when applicable.

We provide closed captioning for all of our courses, as well as transcripts upon request. Please reach out to us at if you have any questions, requests, or access needs.

Group Size

There are 30 spots available on this experience.

Dates and Availability

There are no upcoming experiences at the moment. Fill out the form below to be notified when we add new dates.

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