This article explores the affective reactions of 13 community college students engaged in an open pedagogy textbook creation project. The instructor and first author, a human development and family services faculty member and department chair at a community college in Oregon, received feedback from her students that the project impacted them differently than past learning experiences. Student engagement with research and the diverse personal experiences of their classmates fostered both personal challenges and growth. This article groups these experiences into themes and explores different theoretical lenses, including scaffolding (constructivism), transformative learning, threshold concepts and safe spaces/brave spaces. We discuss the support that students and faculty can use in similar learning situations, such as metacognition and cultural humility. Finally, we offer a visual model that open educators can use and adapt to consider how to raise or lower the stakes of an open pedagogy assignment.