I just sat in on an excellent 90 minute phone/web training session for JPL Solar System Ambassadors and other educators. The subject was IYA 2009 - the upcoming International Year of Astronomy, celebrating 400 years since Galileo first used a telescope to observe the cosmos (watch the great IYA2009 introductory video here - choose high quality if you can).
There are many events being planned, with extensive web support from various organizations, much of it already in place. There's a designated theme for each month of the year, starting with "Telescopes and Space Probes: Today's Starry Messengers" in January. That January page includes links to other pages with activities, videos, and PowerPoints as well as a PDF "IYA Discovery Guide" for the month (all 12 guides are listed here). January's guide includes methods and tips for observation with and without a telescope, as well as a profile of Venus, the featured observing object for the month. Galileo observed the phases of Venus with his telescope (see Galileo's 1610 sketches below) and showed that this was direct evidence that Venus is orbiting the sun rather than the Earth (and that Venus orbits closer to the sun than does the Earth).
The January page also points to an excellent presentation from the Night Sky Network, "How Telescopes Changed Our Understanding of the Universe." It identifies many of the key questions about our place in the cosmos and how ever improving telescopes helped us to answer those questions. The explanatory graphics in this PowerPoint are great.
There's so much to explore, and if you are an educator (formal or in- ) and/or a member of an astronomy club as I am, January 10 will be a special target day for doing a star party or other observational event. The goal is to kick off the year by getting as many people as possible observing the universe around us that night. I better get busy preparing for all this stuff!
International site: www.astronomy2009.org
US site: astronomy2009.us
NASA site: astronomy2009.nasa.gov