In a pilot study of school children (K-10), conceptions of how and why objects are seen when looking at the surface of water in a pond were explored by examining students' responses to drawings and text depicting this common phenomenon. Using a questionnaire and individual interviews, 214 responses to two items were obtained. A developmental model of cognitive functioning based on the updated SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs and Collis, 1991; Collis and Biggs, 1991) was used to analyse the data. Students' understanding of the reflection of a tree appears to progress from an intuitive idea of a picture on the water to a virtual image described in concrete symbolic terms using concepts of reflection and light rays which have particular properties. Alternative conceptions of why things happen as they do are evident in this progression.