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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  K-12 education

Pandemic projects: South Spokane dad builds treehouse for daughter’s remote learning classes

Molly Markham demonstrates how she connects to school through her laptop computer while inside her treehouse. She’s been distance learning in it since September.  (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Molly Markham demonstrates how she connects to school through her laptop computer while inside her treehouse. She’s been distance learning in it since September. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

What kid hasn’t dreamed of a treehouse a la Swiss Family Robinson – that is if they’re familiar with the classic tale or Disney movie?

For Molly Markham, 11, that dream came true when her dad built her one this spring.

“Usually, my kids all have activities in the evenings or on the weekends, and I’m coaching or taking them to their activities,” Gary Markham said.

That all changed when the pandemic hit, so he decided to use his free time to build his daughter a tree house.

“I originally thought of a platform with a rope ladder,” he said.

But Molly wasn’t too keen about the ladder, so her dad started thinking big.

He had plenty of inspiration.

“I think I’ve watched every episode of ‘Treehouse Masters,’ ” Markham said. “I watched it enough to know what I wanted to do.”

And that was incorporating a real tree, not just building a platform on stilts.

The result was a seven-sided, heptagon-shaped treehouse wrapped around a huge tree adjacent to their home.

Molly was delighted with the house’s special features, including a porch, front door, interior and exterior lighting, three glass windows, and three large shutters that open and close on struts to let fresh air in or keep cold air out.

“The shutters are my favorite part,” Markham said.

A sturdy wooden ladder provides access to the treehouse.

“I made that with a friend, because he had all the cool tools,” he said.

He assembled cedar fence board walls in the garage, and Molly’s older brothers helped put them in place.

The roof proved to be the most difficult challenge.

Originally, Markham used cedar siding boards, but the first time it rained the boards absorbed the water and the rain poured in.

Plan B was a sub roof topped by cedar shingles he salvaged from his in-law’s lake place.

Markham started the project in April and by late May construction was complete.

Then Molly and her mom, Kristin Markham, decorated the interior, furnishing it with a table, chairs, a space heater for chilly days, and lots of pillows.

“My favorite thing is the signature wall,” Molly said.

A white painted wall and a bucket of Sharpies serve as a guest book. Everyone who visits the treehouse gets to sign the wall.

This summer, she played Clue with her brothers in her treetop lair and composed songs with the members of her band.

“We’re called the ‘Flying Trees,’ ” she said. “We go by ‘TFTs.’ ”

Of course, no treehouse is complete without a bucket and pulley system to haul up snacks and supplies. These days, most of the supplies are school related. What was originally created as a vantage point to watch her brothers play basketball, and a hangout for friends, has become Molly’s classroom.

From 8:30 a.m. to 11:55 a.m., the Mullan Road Elementary fifth-grader attends her virtual classes from the wooden beauty of her treehouse.

“I like math a lot,” she said.

When Markham was building the treehouse, he couldn’t have imagined his daughter wouldn’t be returning to school this fall, but Molly’s thankful for the quiet classroom with good Wi-Fi.

Gazing up at her dad’s pandemic project, she said, “I like that I’m able to do school out here.”

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