homeschool day @ la brea tarpits

It’s amazing how a pit of black stinky goo in the middle of Los Angeles can unlock a tremendous amount of discoveries.  That’s what we encountered at the La Brea Tarpits and Museum this past week during their homeschool day!

For their homeschool days, La Brea Tarpits has a table for you to check in, adjacent to the front desk.  They ask how many students you have, hand you a schedule and list of the day’s attractions, give you a handy Teacher sticker, and send you on your way – absolutely FREE!

The tar pulling is the very first stop after check in.  It’s a small round display filled with tar from right outside the front door.  Metal rods of varying widths challenge you to give you the experience of what it is like to get stuck in tar.  It’s a very small display, and very popular, but definitely sets up your entire visit to the museum!  I was able to pull the wider width one out with one hand – slowly, but I still did it #strongmama (Those deadlifts really pay off!)

Up next you can see various fossils of animals and plants that were found in the La Brea Tarpits, as well as the history of some of the animals that roamed around the area.  Particularly interesting in the teeth of some of these fossils, paleontologists were able to determine what these animals ate, even after all these years trapped under the tar.

Here, I can tell you that this young animal has granola and chocolate trapped in his teeth…

Not only does the museum teach about the animals that used to inhabit this territory, it gives visitors history about the land and how exactly the tar pits proved to be mines of historic artifacts.


You can catch scientists conducting work behind a glass wall.  They offer up explanations as to what they are working on, and in some cases, close up video of their view through their microscopes.

Docents taught about current day animals native to our city, and even showed us nighttime footage of a mountain lion who lives in nearby Griffith Park.  We were able to touch real pelts of a bobcat, mountain lion, wolf, and coyote – all of whom reside among us.

Other attractions for the day included their special show ‘Ice Age Encounters’ where a lifelike Sabre-toothed cat keeps kids entertained as they learn more about the Ice Age.  There is also the movie ‘Titans of the Ice Age’ that is offered in 2D and 3D.  There is a small fee for the 3D version.

img_0034Outside, the museum grounds stretch a large grassy area, perfect for lunch, and trails lead you to the different digging sites that are currently being excavated, like this one to the left.  You can smell the stench as the sulfur deposits rise to the top of the tar in some of these excavation sites.  Project 23 is a current project that could double the number of fossils already on display in the entire museum! Across the grounds, it’s a short walk over to the LA County Museum of Art.  That’s a visit for another day and time.

The La Brea Tarpits was a great field trip to tie in history, science and current day Los Angeles for us locals.  We did the entire museum in about 3 hours – unfortunately, we had limited time constraints.  So, if you are going, I’d plan on 4-5 hours.  45min Excavator tours are also available in the afternoons to get the most out of your experience, but you’ll need tickets!

The free parking lot was full by the time we arrived, but ample parking is located just across the street at an office building which houses a Starbucks, The Counter and other eateries.  Parking was $21 there, so it’s a good thing that their Homeschool Days are free!

Check out the La Brea Tarpits website for your next homeschool field trip!


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